While it is still unclear which criteria will be used to determine which domains land on the lists, small publishers and, ultimately, consumers will bear the brunt of the Clearinghouse’s effect, Mastria predicted.
“The business model that all of us take for granted is that advertising will be there to support whatever new services or content is created,” Mastria said. “And right now an advertiser can shop around for the best audience in an efficient way to deliver the best ad to consumers. [The Cookie Clearinghouse] will force advertisers to pay more to find relevant audiences, making it more difficult for small publishers … and cut off innovation.”
Andrew Casale, VP of strategy at Casale Media, agreed.
“The content that we all love to consume costs money to produce and there has been zero mention of how this program will support the publishers of those websites,” Casale said.
Another problem, he noted, is that a program that allows only first-party domains to set cookies could lead to a “more intrusive style of advertising that users hate so that ad tech platforms can get that first-party cookie set.”
Casale pointed to interstitial ads as an example. “In an interstitial ad, if you’re on a publisher’s website and you click somewhere,” he said, “you could be suddenly directed to an ad that takes over your entire screen. When you’re in that environment, you’re still in the first-party domain of the ad server. And, under [the Cookie Clearinghouse] program, you will then be eligible to receive a first-party cookie that could remain persistent.”
The Cookie Clearinghouse could also affect areas outside of targeted ads, suggested Mike Ouellette, who directs real-time bidding for ad network Chitika.
Noting that the program is still in a nascent stage, Mozilla and the Cookie Clearinghouse board of advisors have announced plans to collect feedback from the public about its project next month. Even so, Casale noted, unless the team spearheading the project can strike a balance with the ad industry, all that will be achieved “is a program that can be worked around by ruining the user experience an,d in the end, will not solve any privacy issues.”