Earlier this month, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) asked stakeholders to contribute to the development of a national strategy for “responsibly harnessing privacy-preserving data sharing and analytics to benefit individuals and society.” This effort offers a much-needed opportunity to advance privacy in online advertising, an industry that has not seen improvement in many years.
In our comments, we set out the work that Mozilla has undertaken over the past decade to shape the evolution of privacy preserving advertising, both in our products, and in how we engage with regulators and standards bodies.
Mozilla has often outlined that the current state of the web is not sustainable, particularly how online advertising works today. The ecosystem is broken. It’s opaque by design, rife with fraud, and does not serve the vast majority of those which depend on it – most importantly, the people who use the open web. The ways in which advertising is conducted today – through pervasive tracking, serial privacy violations, market consolidation, and lack of transparency – are not working and cause more harm than good.
At Mozilla, we’ve been working to drive the industry in a better direction through technical solutions. However, technical work alone can’t address disinformation, discrimination, societal manipulation, privacy violations, and more. A complementary regulatory framework is necessary to mitigate the most egregious practices in the ecosystem and ensure that the outcomes of such practices (discrimination, electoral manipulation, etc.) are untenable under law rather than due to selective product policy enforcement.
Our vision is a web which empowers individuals to make informed choices without their privacy and security being compromised. There is a real opportunity now to improve the privacy properties of online advertising. We must draw upon the internet’s founding principles of transparency, public participation, and innovation. We look forward to seeing how OSTP’s national strategy progresses this vision.