Hierarchical Cookies

I was just reading Walt Mossberg’s piece on the problem of using advertising to fund web journalism. One problem he noted was that advertisers use cookies to figure out ways of bypassing more expensive, higher quality sites. As he noted on the Verge:

“our quality journalism was, to him, nothing more than a lead generator for target-rich readers”

One way to get around this would be change the way cookies work. Right now, cookies are simply associated with the site that sent the content. A better way would be to have hierarchical cookies. If site A includes content from site B, then the cookies accessible to the content from site B should be associated with A > B, not with B as they are now. Of course, this should be transparent to site B.

I originally came up with this idea a while ago while thinking about a way to control tracking cookies. We know that advertisers won’t honor do-not-track requests, so a technical solution, one not requiring their cooperation, would be best. Hierarchical cookies would require changing the way cookies are stored internally by browsers and various web rendering APIs, but the necessary changes would be rather straightforward. The cookie API as seen by the Javascript code would be as it is now, but only cookies set by site B, as referenced by site A (A > B) would be visible and modifiable. Any auxiliary storage would be similarly isolated.

I’m way too lazy to consider implementing this myself, but I doubt it would take someone familiar with the code base all that long to do. It would enhance user privacy, but also give more control of user eyeballs to actual content providers, rather than scavengers.