Deeper Discussion of our Decision on DNT Defaults

Tom Lowenthal

2

A choice between a red pill and a blue pill.

It's not a binary choice.

DNT is often compared to other browser security and privacy features, such as malware and phishing protection. This reveals a common misunderstanding about what sort of feature DNT is and what it does. That’s why we think we should shed a little more light on Firefox’s DNT defaults.

DNT is different. It doesn’t take away a broken feature, or fix a bug. It adds a new feature that’s incredibly important: the user’s voice. We ship DNT by default: the feature is there, and you can use it if you want. When DNT is off, it doesn’t mean “please track me”, it means that the user hasn’t told the browser their choice yet.

  • DNT:0 means “I consent to being tracked”.
  • DNT:1 means “I object to being tracked”.
  • If the signal is not sent, we are not communicating either of these things.

We ship Firefox with DNT in the “don’t tell sites anything” configuration because initially, that’s all we know. Until the user tells us what to send, we don’t want to put words into their mouth. Neither Mozilla nor Firefox controls what sort of privacy protection sites give their users. Those decisions are up to sites and to regulators.

DNT allows for a conversation between the person sitting behind the keyboard and they site that they want to visit. If DNT is on by default, then it’s not a conversation. For DNT to be effective, it must actually represent the user’s voice.

We introduced DNT to do just that: to give users a voice and let them tell sites that they don’t want to be tracked. We did this before knowing exactly how sites and advertisers would respond. Right now, DNT is best explained as a vote for privacy, not a magic “keep me safe” button.

2 responses

  1. Norman wrote on :

    I’m confused. You state “We ship Firefox with DNT in the ‘don’t tell sites anything’ configuration yet Sid (http://blog.mozilla.org/privacy/2011/11/09/dnt-cannot-be-default/) says DNT default is off. Are you guys in the same meetings?

    1. Tom Lowenthal wrote on :

      We’re saying the same thing. Firefox doesn’t send DNT:1 or DNT:0 by default. The user has to make a decision to turn either of these signals on.