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    NPR: ‘Do Not Track’ Web Browser Option Gains Steam

    NPR takes a look at the move toward “Do Not Track” proposals, which would allow consumers to restrict the data gathered by Web sites and marketers on the consumers’ online browsing or purchases.

    Government regulators in the U.S. and Europe are putting pressure on the online advertising industry to adopt a new Web browser option called “do not track.” The option is designed to let people request more privacy from the websites they visit. […]

    Some browsers, like Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox, already come with a “do not track” button. Other browsers are expected to add the feature soon.

    Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford graduate student specializing in computer science and law, has helped to popularize the concept. He says more than 10 million Internet users are already using the option. It sends a signal to websites and online advertisers that a user does not want his or her browsing behavior tracked.

    A coalition of online advertising companies has promised to begin listening for that signal, Mayer says, including Google and Yahoo — two of the industry’s largest players.

    “But it’s not quite clear yet what it’s going to mean for them to listen to that signal,” he says.

    That’s the question the Tracking Protection Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium is currently considering.

    The “W3C” may not be a household name, but the group has been setting standards for how websites work for years. Now the consortium is trying to set the standard for how sites should respond when a user clicks the “do not track” button. […]

    The “do not track” system will have exceptions of its own. Privacy advocates concede there can’t be a complete ban on data collection; websites need some basic information simply to operate.

    But those advocates say they’d rather see those data-collection rules agreed upon in an open forum like the W3C meeting, as opposed to letting the advertising industry write its own rules.

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