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RIP "Do not track", the privacy standard All are ignored



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"Do not track" had one major goal: A simple checkbox in every web browser that calls web pages not to track you. It has reached this goal, but here is the problem: websites did not care.

As we pointed out in 201

2, the Do Not Track option does not prevent you from being tracked. It only sends out special information when you connect to a Web site and prompts you to not track this Web site. The vast majority of sites ignored this. That never really changed. There was no penalty for ignoring the request and no reason for actually appreciating it.

Nevertheless, "Do Not Track" has been a mess for years. This option is part of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. You can select the checkbox, which may make you feel a little better if you are annoyed that you are being followed online. But it really does not do anything. It is misleading.

In fact, "Do not track" was used to track people. If you've turned on "Do not track," it's additional information about you that can be tracked. For example, advertisers could direct privacy adverts in your direction.

Everyone agreed to ignore this useless checkbox for a while, but now it looks like DNT is finally collapsing. As DuckDuckGo notes, Apple removes Safari's "Do not track" setting. As Gizmodo noted, work on the standard ended on January 17, 2019 quietly. After the standard has been abandoned and the first browser rejected it, we expect other browser makers to follow Apple's lead.

Is that bad? No, "Do Not Track" never went anywhere and was largely ignored. At this point, the Do Not Track option acts as a placebo, misleading people only by presence. It was a long time ago to eliminate DNT.

The story of "not following" is messy. Microsoft only made the problem worse by enabling it in Internet Explorer 10 by default, so more sites ignore it. This is especially funny because Microsoft has never even obeyed the DNT approach and said, "Since there is not yet a general understanding of the interpretation of the DNT signal, Microsoft services are currently not responding to browser DNT signals."

Modern browsers that include tracking protection do not wait for a "common understanding" in the industry. Instead, they proactively block trackers. Apple's Safari browser includes intelligent tracking protection that prevents you from following websites you do not visit directly. Mozilla Firefox includes a Content Blocking feature that lets you block a list of known trackers.

This does not mean that tracking or targeted advertising is necessarily bad. There are arguments for and against it. But as a society we want to lead this discussion without distracting a misleading check box that actually does nothing.


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