About a year ago, the Mozilla Firefox browser development team introduced a browser option that is slowly beginning to reshape your privacy on the web….
The option, known as “Do Not Track“, allows your browser to ask a website to not track you… and if that website honors the feature, you will not be tracked by third-party tools (most of which are advertising services).
Websites do not have to honor this setting as it is purely an “asking nicely”… yet many sites are beginning to voluntarily support the Do Not Track requests of their users… and that now includes Twitter.com!
In Plain English This Means: If you go into your browser settings, and select the Do Not Track option (Which in Firefox reads “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked”) then when you visit Twitter.com, Twitter will voluntarily not allow third-party ad networks serve you targeted content.
So I’m Safe Then? (At least on supporting sites?)
Some tracking actually will still take place because the ad-agencies still are putting business ahead of “what is right”. Computerworld.com writes, these companies have “pledged to not use tracking data to serve targeted ads — which the DAA calls “behavioral advertising” — or use that tracking information “for the purpose of any adverse determination concerning employment, credit, health treatment or insurance eligibility, as well as specific protections for sensitive data concerning children.” … and that this is why “privacy groups are pushing for a stricter interpretation. The EFF, for one, is leery of the advertising industry’s sincerity.”
This is a step in the right direction – but we have not yet won this fight.
How To Enable Do Not Track in Firefox
At the top left corner of your Firefox browser, there is a “Firefox” button. Open it and inside, select the “Options” link. This will open the Options panel. Inside the options panel, go to the “Privacy” tab and check the box “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked” at the top. Click OK to close the options menu. (Yes, that’s all you need to do. It’s very painless!)
What About Other Browsers?
While Mozilla Firefox brought us this great option, many other browsers now have user-created add-ons available that let them accomplish the same thing. For example, Chrome users can use this. (If you’re using Internet Explorer, the first step in protecting yourself would really be to get a more secure browser. Check out Firefox or Chrome.)
What About Facebook?
Facebook recently became more transparent about what they collect… but still remains very aggressive in their data collection. That’s a polite way of saying they track a LOT of things, even when you’re logged out of Facebook, and likely always will. Even though this setting will “ask” Facebook.com to not track you, Facebook will not honor that request (because their business model is based on serving you relevant ads).
What About Google? (And Chrome)
“If users have requested personalization (such as by signing up for particular services) or visit Websites that use “first-party” cookies to personalize the overall experience (for example, a news Website recommending articles to its readers, or a video site remembering your volume preferences), then browsers will not break that experience,” Google wrote in a blog post.
eWeek.com writes “In other words, users will still be tracked and will see ads targeted to their behavioral tastes online. Wojcicki was careful to note that Google believes tailoring users’ Web experience with more relevant, interest-based ads is a “good thing.”
This seems to me to say that Google still plans to serve you ads from their own (first-party rather than third-party) network.
What About Private Browsing?
Your browser likely already offers a “Private Browsing” (Firefox) or “Incognito Mode” (Chrome). Guys in particular tend to already be aware of these settings. ;) Either of these (which are in the browser’s main menu) will allow you to surf in a way is not tracked at the browser level, but still may be tracked by the sites you visit. (This is useful when you need to hide your web visits to a site from someone else that uses the same computer.)
If you’ve been concerned about all the third-party advertising tracking going on, this is a great way to help reduce some of it. While not all sites honor it, we should continue to pressure sites to respect it even if we do not use it ourselves. I myself do not use this option as I prefer targeted over non-targeted ads. However, I am a strong supporter of sites respecting this request for people who need it (including your kids).
~ Kim ~
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