Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

Summary: Mozilla has proposed technology that would allow the user to implement so-called Do Not Track features to stymie behavioral advertising. The big question is whether these moves by Mozilla, Google and Microsoft will be enough to take Do Not Track features mainstream.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Mozilla has proposed technology that would allow the user to implement so-called Do Not Track features to stymie behavioral advertising. The big question is whether these moves by Mozilla, Google and Microsoft will be enough to take Do Not Track features mainstream.

Mozilla's draft policy---one of many steps that tech leaders are making as they ponder the Federal Trade Commission's privacy recommendations---goes like this:

  • Create a feature in the browser that allows you to broadcast that you are opting out of ad-based tracking;
  • Transmit a Do Not Track header with every click in Firefox;
  • Web sites would then opt that user out of behavioral tracking.

Mozilla's privacy guru Alex Fowler writes in a blog post:

The Do Not Track header builds on the work the advertising networks have done to date without the cookie-based systems they make available to people online. The advantages to the header technique are that it is less complex and simple to locate and use, it is more persistent than cookie-based solutions, and it doesn’t rely on user’s finding and loading lists of ad networks and advertisers to work.

The rub: Sites and browsers would have to add the Do Not Track header to make the system work. As Fowler notes, there's a chicken and egg problem. A site that is ad supported---in other words most of the Web---is going to be reluctant to sign up first to back this feature.

Mozilla has a lot on the issue including a post about the technical specs and an analysis of the Do Not Track conundrum. Microsoft also plans to add privacy features to IE9. Regarding IE9's Do Not Track effort, Mary Jo Foley wrote in December:

Tracking Protection will be an opt-in mechanism. Microsoft officials said “Tracking Protection Lists” will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they’re online. The new feature is meant to complement other privacy features in IE, including InPrivate Browsing, a k a porn mode.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google will add a privacy feature to its Chrome browser allowing people to permanently opt out of ad targeting. The Journal notes that Google will require you to download software to make the feature work.

Add it up and Do Not Track technology is gaining steam, but it's a little fuzzy where this movement is heading. The technology fixes seem a bit clunky to date.

Topic: Browser

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14 comments
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  • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

    Sounds good in theory but seriously doubt the websites will participate. They want the advertising and the clicks.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

      @Loverock Davidson

      agreed...

      tor can be a good friend for anonymous browsing
      erik.soderquist
  • Firefox Addons can do the job anyway.

    Ghostery and NoScript both allow a lot of user choice.
    peter_erskine
    • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

      @peter_erskine@...

      Don't forget AdBlock Plus and BetterPrivacy.
      jorjitop
      • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

        @jorjitop there is a cross browser solution that does it all and more, www.breadcrumbssolutions.com
        Privacy man
  • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

    [i]"A site that is ad supported?in other words most of the Web?is going to be reluctant to sign up first to back this feature."[/i]
    ****************************************

    No problem, just add those advertisers to your list in whichever Ad Blocker you use.

    Don't track me, or I don't see your ads at all.
    Hallowed are the Ori
  • Ive always said

    Ive always said the contextual ads we get from searching with google is very fair exchange. What is not fair/moral is the addition of hidden tracking. They have no business tracking what i do without permission except if i clicked on one of there ads. Which i have never done on purpose in 10 years. Everything non advertising is none of there business.
    Why should they have more power/rights then our government or police to spy on us?
    Stan57
    • Yep

      @Stan57 ...As much as I hate advertising, it's one of things that puts lots of services and free content on the web, just like commercial radio and TV. The alternative might well be pay-per-click!
      Papa_Bill
      • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

        @becabill

        Nothing is free on the web. The price you pay in lost privacy is much higher.
        jorjitop
    • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

      @Stan57 You put it in the perfect context - free is fair - tracking is unfair.
      James-SantaBarbara
  • RE: Do Not Track technology gains steam, but hurdles remain

    I just use http://duckduckgo.com/ - Great searches, less spam, no tracking! And they have bang and no-click searches that make my life easier.
    matthewboh
    • Most spam is an irritating waste of time,

      @matthewboh ...but I've got to admit, some is so ridiculous I get a good laugh out of it.
      Papa_Bill
  • Like asking a crack addict to guard your stash ...

    The temptation will be just too much for them. Many website operators may even agree and implement the new header, then just lie about it and track you anyway. How would you ever know?

    I use Firefox and Noscript and Adblock for most surfing, but more and more sites are figuring out how to circumvent these tools. Some websites rig their pages so that nothing at all works unless the ads are displayed. While I admire their technical prowess, those are the sites that go on my "Do no click here" list.

    Malware, adware, and scamware still exist in abundance even at so-called legit sites. We still have to clean off browser hijackers, toolbars that phone home every click (not just in the browser!) and keyloggers.

    While I recognize that companies have legitimate needs to use ads and websites need them for revenues, they have to balance their needs against the tolerance of the customer. Abuse our eyeballs and eardrums, and we will continue to avoid either the ad or the website entirely.
    terry flores
  • Europe has it right

    Our data is our own and we need to be able to specifically authorize use at a detailed level. It's just like the travesty of the phone company charging to have an unlisted number.
    just1opinion