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European Do Not Track Supporters Make Demands

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Supporters of the Do Not Track standard have warned its detractors that they won’t stand for any nonsense, and have given backers an encouraging nudge in the direction of fair implementation.

In Europe, Neelie Kroes, the VP of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, has just given a speech in which she cautioned the industry against ignoring Do Not Track, messing around with its standards or abusing the cookie system.

Speaking at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels she said, “Standardisation work is not going according to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned. About the delay, and about the turn taken by the discussions hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). I think that won’t come as a surprise to you. And I know that my colleagues across the Atlantic, at the Federal Trade Commission, feel the same.”

So what is the problem? According to Kroes the problem is a watering down of the standard, and she repeated her earlier calls for firm rules that actually protect the individual.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I will say it again today: the DNT standard must be rich and meaningful enough to make a difference, when it comes to protecting people’s privacy,” she said.

“It should build on the principle of informed consent, giving people control over their information. And, indeed, it must be designed to let people choose to not be tracked. The clue is in the name: do NOT track.”

European Minister though she might be, Kroes also aimed her warning at those American companies that ultimately could make or break the standard. She’s looking at the internet giants, and their implementation of the rules when she says that European regulators won’t stand for any nonsense.

“I mean everyone,” she said. “Including American companies. Because if you want to track Europeans, you have to play by our rules. Our new data protection framework is crystal-clear on that point.Including online businesses. In the long term, the online economy won’t grow if it acts against the grain, against the wishes of ordinary users, against their need for trust. And under such conditions, nor can online services prosper.”

Over the pond Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus co-chairs Joe Barton and Edward Markey expressed their disappointment at statements from the Digital Advertising Alliance that call for avoidance of the standard and ignoring of its guidance.

“Privacy is an issue that affects everyone, and the Digital Advertising Alliance’s announcement made clear that it puts profits over privacy. If consumers want to be tracked online, they should have to opt-in to be tracked, instead of the other way around,” they said.

“This is why we are disappointed to hear the Digital Advertising Alliance insist that it will not honor Microsoft’s “Do Not Track” default and will not penalise companies that ignore it.”

The Digital Advertising Alliance is a self regulatory group for online behavioural advertisers.

 

Yahoo To Introduce ‘Do-Not-Track’ Worldwide This Year

March 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo websites worldwide will comply with users “do not track” settings starting later this year, Yahoo announced Wednesday.

Most major browsers are now able to send a message to sites visited, indicating whether users want their surfing behavior to be tracked by cookies for the purposes of displaying personalized ads. In February the last major hold-out, Google, announced that its Chrome browser will include do-not-track support by the end of the year.

That message, an HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) header accompanying a request to display a Web page, avoids the awkward paradox that to store a visitor’s preference not to be tracked by cookies, sites had to store a cookie containing that preference, and provides a consistent way to store and indicate such preferences across all Web sites that respect the do-not-track header.

Support for the do-not-track header has been in the works since last year, Yahoo said. All Yahoo sites will respect the header, including those of Right Media and Interclick, two Yahoo subsidiaries specializing in behavioral or data-driven advertising, the company said.

The company’s announcement comes the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade is set to hold a hearing on balancing privacy and innovation, and in the same week that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission called for creation of a do-not-track tool for Internet users.

In a statement announcing its plans for allowing visitors to opt out of tracking, Yahoo maintained that allowing advertisers to regulate themselves was the best and quickest way to introduce protections to the market place without sacrificing innovation or value creation.

Yahoo said its do-not-track system meets the recommendations of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), an industry body uniting many advertisers and online advertising networks.

Such self-regulatory programs, though, have been criticized for leading to opt-out systems that favor advertisers and are too difficult for ordinary consumers to use.

Yahoo is one of the first household names to announce its commitment to honoring the do-not-track header, according to a list of companies having announced such commitments maintained by researchers at Stanford University.

 

Google Says Chrome Will Support ‘Do Not Track’

February 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google will add support for “Do Not Track” to its Chrome browser some time before the end of 2012.

The move is a reversal for Google, which has resisted supporting the technology that lets users opt out of the online tracking conducted by websites and advertisers.

Google’s change of heart came as the White House today pushed a privacy bill of rights and said it would introduce new online privacy legislation in Congress.

Chrome joins other browsers — Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) and Mozilla’s Firefox — which can already transmit special information with every HTTP page request that tells sites the user does not want to be tracked.

Apple’s Safari currently supports Do Not Track, although turning it on requires a user to select “Send Do Not Track HTTP Header” from the “Developer” menu on the browser; Apple will make the setting easier to find in the Privacy section of Safari’s Preferences pane this summer when it releases OS X Mountain Lion.

Opera, from the Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, does not support Do Not Track. Two weeks ago, however, Opera launched an experimental build of its desktop browser with support for for the anti-tracking technology.

Mozilla was the first browser maker to add Do Not Track support to its software.

The silver lining of today’s announcement is that Chrome’s adoption of Do Not Track puts the option in front of a majority of Internet users: According to Web metrics company Net Applications, the browsers that now, or will later this year, support the header request accounted for 98% of those used last month.

 

Mozilla’s Firefox To Offer ‘Opt-Out’ Privacy Feature

January 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla, the developer behind theFirefox browser, is creating a feature that will allow its users to opt-out of online behavioral advertising. The goal is to give users “a deeper understanding of and control over personal information online,” Mozilla’s head of privacy stated in a blog posted on their site Sunday.

The feature will allow users to configure their Firefox browser to tell websites and advertisers that they would like to opt-out of any advertising based on their behavior, Alex Fowler wrote in his blog post. The user’s preference is communicated to websites and third party ad servers using a new “Do Not Track HTTP header”, which is sent with every click or page view in Firefox.

The feature wouldn’t block advertising entirely, only personalized ads. If the user has enabled the feature, the advertiser would have to exchange the personalized ad for a standard ad, according to a diagram included in the blog post.

Mozilla believes the header-based approach will be better for the Web in the long run, compared to cookies or blacklists. Using a header is less complex, more persistent than cookie-based solutions and at the same time simple to locate and use. It doesn’t rely on a user’s finding and loading lists of ad networks and advertisers to work, Fowler wrote.

However, rolling out the feature will be a challenge. For it to work, both browsers and sites will have to implement it. To get past this issue, Mozilla wants to work with the technical community to standardize the header across the industry, according to Fowler. It is also proposing that the feature be considered for upcoming releases of Firefox.

Mozilla’s announcement comes just weeks after the  U.S. government’s call to improve online privacy. In December, the U.S. Department of Commerce recommended the creation of an online privacy bill of rights and an enforceable code of conduct for Internet firms handling consumer data and tracking Web users.