Catching up on DNT Developments

Alex Fowler

Mozilla continues to see progress with regard to Do Not Track, including adoption by online marketing, ad networks and tracking companies.

It’s certainly fair to say that market adoption of Do Not Track will take longer than it took Mozilla to create the mechanism and see it implemented by other major browsers over the span of two short months. While we continue to see positive discussions and strong interest from a broad range of publishers, advertisers, ad networks and data tracking companies, most of the major Internet players appear likely to wait to see what happens next before taking that first step. We’ll continue to support our users in asserting greater choice and control over their online experience, and we’ll work with leading players who recognize the need to embrace those users.

That said, there are several developments worth highlighting, including:

  • The W3C held its first workshop on tracking protection and will issue its report any day now.
  • Three additional online marketing companies have publicly stated their support for DNT: Chitika, Effective Measure and bluecava.
  • The DNT feature is now part of the Privacy Panel in Firefox 5 Beta.
  • We’ve provided UI to enable the DNT feature in Firefox Mobile on Android and Maemo.

Mozilla co-sponsored the W3C Workshop on Web Tracking and User Privacy last month, along with Adobe, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. From our perspective, the workshop was very well organized and covered a lot of ground in a few days. The W3C stated in a blog post last week that “…the points of agreement suggest that real interoperable progress on tracking protection — the kind that will help the average end user’s privacy — is on the way.” The workshop report is due out any day now, and the W3C says web tracking will soon become the subject of a Working Group to undertake technical standards work.

In addition to the AP News Registry, which we announced had implemented the DNT header across 800 news sites servicing 175 million unique visitors each month, we’re pleased to learn that three more companies have implemented support for DNT across their services.

Chitika, an independent ad network that, according to its site, serves over 3 billion monthly ad impressions across 100,000s of sites. When users with DNT enabled encounter an ad served by Chitika, the company responds as if the user had installed Chtika’s opt-out cookie. If you browse to Chitika’s privacy policy with DNT enabled in your browser, they also demonstrate how use of the DNT signal can be used to personalize a notice.

Effective Measure, which provides “digital audience measurement, website rankings, internet demographics and media planning tools for publishers, agencies and digital marketers,” wrote in a guest blog post on the Privacy Choice blog that they:

“suppress a number of pieces of information that can be identified to the remote users computer – notably their IP address and User Agent” (a value sent by your browser on each request to identify your browser, its version and the operating system used). Inclusive to the solution that we offer, we flag traffic coming from users who send the DNT header. This is then discounted from any of our products or services above and beyond core audience measurement.”

It would be cool to see Effective Measure update its opt-out page to emulate Chitika and show people who have enabled DNT that they’re already opted out.

At last week’s pii2011 event in Santa Clara, my co-panelist David Norris, bluecava’s CEO told the audience that his company respects the DNT header, which is particularly relevant as the company ramps up “to digitally fingerprint 10% of the 10 billion devices connected to the Internet this year.” I don’t know all the details behind bluecava’s DNT implementation, but I’m eager to find out more. Perhaps Jim Brock with Privacy Choice can convince David to guest blog the details, or perhaps I’ll ask him first. It would also be great to see bluecava follow Chitika’s example of recognizing users with DNT enabled on its privacy preferences page.

With this week’s release of Firefox 5 Beta, I’m happy to report that the DNT feature is making the move onto the Privacy Panel within the browser, as opposed to its current location under Advanced settings. Here’s a screenshot of how the new panel looks:

Feel free to download the beta and let us know what you think!

Last, but not least, we released new UI for users of Firefox 4 Mobile for Android and Maemo to turn on DNT. My colleague Sid Stamm issued a post earlier this week on this development, which includes a great screenshot.

As always, your comments and input will be much appreciated!

Alex Fowler
[Reposted]