March 26, 2012, 3:22 PM — You can opt out of being tracked online by using a Web browser with support for Do Not Track, a privacy feature that lets you tell supporting websites that you don't want to be tracked by third parties (advertisers, marketing firms, and the like). It's like putting yourself on an online version of the Do Not Call list.
Now Mozilla is developing an open-source operating system for smartphones and tablets that supports Do Not Track from the ground up. Code-named Boot to Gecko (B2G), this Linux-based mobile OS is designed to bring the (comparatively) rigorous privacy standards of the World Wide Web to smartphones and tablets.
Mozilla's Open Web Devices platform (B2G's technical name) is still in an early stage of development, and no firm release date exists yet, though Mozilla is seeking partnerships with phone manufacturers. Mozilla has already cut a deal with Spanish telecom provider Telefonica to bring a B2G device to market before the end of the year. If you want to test B2G now, you must root your Android phone and manually flash B2G to your device--but don't try to do this unless you're comfortable tinkering with (and maybe breaking) your phone.
A Simpler Opt-Out Process
The Do Not Track options in the Boot to Gecko operating system make opting out simpler. If your smartphone or tablet runs Boot to Gecko, you'll be able to set Do Not Track preferences from the settings menu, and your device will broadcast your preferences to every app you open. This will help you maintain personal privacy while browsing websites, and it may prevent other apps from harvesting your personal data, if their developers update them to respect the Do Not Track option.
Boot to Gecko is heavily Web-centric: All B2G apps live online, and you access them directly instead of downloading them from an app store like the Android Market. Making Boot to Gecko open-source and letting it run apps from any developer should improve user privacy. Just as many websites maintain consumer-friendly privacy practices to keep users happy, Mozilla and other developers will create consumer-friendly apps in order to compete in the open market.