Technology

Privacy group touts new Do Not Track system

Privacy advocates said Monday they have developed a way to encourage websites to honor “Do Not Track” requests that allow users to ask websites not to collect data on them.

Under a proposal by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the privacy company Disconnect, websites will post a copy of their tracking policies online. If it matches EFF policies, participating ad and tracker blocking software will then make an exception for the website.

{mosads}In theory, this will give website owners a reason to participate in the program by displaying their ads to users who would otherwise block them.

The program includes blocking software provided by Disconnect and the EFF, as well as the popular tool provided by AdBlock. Peter Eckersley, the EFF’s chief computer scientist, said that the participating blocking tools have between 50 million and 100 million users. He said that the group has also had “private conversations” with other ad blocker providers.

Participating websites include analytics service Mixpanel, the publishing platform Medium and the alternative search engine DuckDuckGo. Eckersley said that the websites have “meaningful incentives” to honor Do Not Track requests for the first time.

Users can send Do Not Track requests fairly easily from Chrome, Firefox and Safari. But advocates and advertisers have been unable to find a mutually agreeable way to implement the Do Not Track system in the past, rendering the requests relatively toothless.

“Although there’s been a lot of efforts around Do Not Track in the last five years or so, there hasn’t been a serious answer to the question of what does Do Not Track mean,” said Eckersley in a statement. “There have been some proposals that are honestly not credible answers from a privacy perspective.”

Casey Oppenheim, the CEO of Disconnect, said that advertisers can still achieve many of their objectives while honoring Do Not Track requests.

“The failure of the ad industry and privacy groups to reach a compromise on [Do Not Track] has led to a viral surge in ad blocking, massive losses for Internet companies dependent on ad revenue, and increasingly malicious methods of tracking users and surfacing advertisements online,” he said in a statement. “Our hope is that this new [Do Not Track] approach will protect a consumer’s right to privacy and incentivize advertisers to respect user choice, paving a path that allows privacy and advertising to coexist.” 

Tags Electronic Frontier Foundation
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