There’s been a lot of discussion about a Do Not Track system. The idea has been proposed for several years by privacy advocates (disclosure: this includes me) and the Federal Trade Commission supported Do Not Track in the privacy report (pdf) that it released this week. USA Today talks to experts to see what technology such a system would entail:
Do Not Track is simpler and more powerful than Do Not Call. That’s what experts say about the mechanism that the Federal Trade Commission wants to make available to consumers to enable them to stop advertisers from tracking them online. […]
Do Not Track works by inserting one line of instruction into the communication that takes place between your Web browser and websites. It simply asks the advertisers on every site you visit not to track you, says Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford University computer science graduate student, whose research the FTC reviewed in making its proposal. “Our aim was to make Do Not Track completely transparent to the user,” says Mayer. “They flip one switch, and all advertising networks and tracking services won’t track them.”
The catch: The burgeoning industry of advertising networks and online tracking services that have devised dozens of sophisticated ways to identify and profile specific consumers must be compelled to obey consumers’ wishes. […]
Unlike Do Not Call, Do Not Track doesn’t require maintenance of a registry of users. It simply instructs every online advertiser not to track you. The technology is so simple that users of the Firefox Web browser have been able to use a Do Not Track mechanism since July 2009. […]
Do Not Track can also be easily adapted to smartphones, tablet PCs and other mobile devices, says Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist for the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation.