Is Do Not Track dead?

A year after the FTC urged the creation of the DNT standard, it my soon be dead in the water. Who's to blame? Take a wild guess.

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The Do Not Track standard may not yet be dead yet, but it's not looking too healthy at the moment. And if you’re looking for a smoking gun, it’s hard not to pin the blame on the advertising industry and its assorted minions.

This week the adsters took a couple of steps that make it seem like they’re not really serious about finding a happy compromise between their desire to collect information about Web surfers and Netizens’ desire to have control and choice over what data is collected and how it is used.

Case in point: Two days ago The Digital Advertising Alliance instructed its minions to simply ignore the Do Not Track flags set as defaults in Internet Explorer 10 because, they claim, it is a “browser manufacturer choice,” and “does not represent user choice.”

Granted, Microsoft caused some waves among privacy advocates with that move as well, mostly because it was unilateral. While all the browsers now offer some kind of DNT setting, Microsoft was the first to declare that its browser would ship with Do Not Track turned on.

As I’ve said elsewhere, though, the ad industry is being more than a bit disingenuous. Whether the browser ships with DNT turned on or off, it’s still a “browser manufacturer choice.” Their problem is they don’t agree with the choice.

The only fair solution: Have a dialog box pop up the first time you install a new browser or update an old one, asking you if you want advertisers to anonymously track your movements across the Web. That is something the W3C working group is considering. However, you don’t see a lot of folks at the DAA lobbying for this option, because they know what most people would choose.

In fact, earlier this week the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology released the results of a phone survey that asked this very question. The results: 60 percent of those asked said they would choose to keep Web sites from collecting information about their surfing habits. Another 20 percent would like them to block all ads. Only 14 percent opted to receive targeted advertisements.

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