Advertising is central to the internet economy. It funds many free products and services. But it is also very intrusive. It is powered by ubiquitous surveillance and it is used in ways that harm individuals and society. The advertising ecosystem is fundamentally broken in its current form.
Advertising does not need to harm consumer privacy. As a browser maker and as an ethical company driven by a clear mission, we want to ensure that the interests of users are represented and that privacy is a priority. We also benefit from the advertising ecosystem which gives us a unique perspective on these issues.
Every part of the ecosystem has a role to play in strengthening and improving it. That is why we see potential in the debate happening today about the merits of privacy preserving advertising.
As this debate moves forward, there are two principles that should anchor work on this topic to ensure we deliver a better web to consumers.
Consumer Privacy First
Improving privacy for everyone must remain the north star for review of proposals, such as Google’s FLoC and Microsoft’s PARAKEET, and parallel proposals from the ad tech industry. At Mozilla, we will be looking at proposals through this lens, which is always a key factor for any decision about what we implement in Firefox. Parties that aren’t interested in protecting user privacy or in advancing a practical vision for a more private web will slow down the innovation that is possible to achieve and necessary for consumers.
Development in the Open
It is important that proposals are transparently debated and collaboratively developed by all stakeholders through formal processes and oversight at open standards development organizations (“SDOs”). Critical elements of online infrastructure should be developed at SDOs to ensure an interoperable and decentralized open internet. Stakeholder commitment to final specifications and timelines is just as important, because without this, the anticipated privacy benefits to consumers cannot materialize.
At its core, the current proposals being debated and their testing plans have important potential to improve how advertising can be delivered but also may raise privacy and centralization issues that need to be addressed. This is why it’s so critical this process plays out in the open at SDOs.
We hope that all stakeholders can commit to these two principles. We have a real opportunity now to improve the privacy properties of online advertising—an industry that hasn’t seen privacy improvement in years. We should not squander this opportunity. We should instead draw on the internet’s founding principles of transparency, public participation and innovation to make progress.
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