Mozilla Rolls Out Do-Not-Track Feature in Firefox 4

  |  February 9, 2011   |  Comments

Browser manufacturer implements blanket opt-out for those who want it.

Mozilla has launched a do-not-track feature in the fourth version of its popular Firefox browser, following calls from the FTC that consumers be given "comprehensive" tools to opt out of online tracking for purposes such as behavioral advertising.

The beta version of the new Firefox product, which launched today, includes a check-box preference labeled "Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked." When selected the browser broadcasts a HTTP header to every website the user visits signaling he or she wishes to opt-out of being tracked.

firefoxdonottrack2

Industry bodies and browser manufacturers have been experimenting with different tools and technologies to offer consumers greater control over their online privacy in response to recent FTC scrutiny. Ad industry group the Digital Advertising Alliance is in the process of implementing a cookie-based solution, powered by firms such as Evidon and TRUSTe.

Microsoft, meanwhile, plans to introduce a feature in the next version of its Internet Explorer browser, which will allow users to implement lists of websites and third parties they do or do not wish to share their data with.

However, Mozilla feels its mechanism will provide a more robust solution. "We believe the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out mechanism than cookies or blacklists," explained Mozilla's Privacy Lead Alex Fowler in a blog post. "The advantages to the header technique are that it is less complex and simple to locate and use, it is more persistent than cookie-based solutions, and it doesn’t rely on users finding and loading lists of ad networks and advertisers to work, he added.

The limitation of the technique, however, is that it relies on compliance from website publishers and advertising companies to be effective. Those parties must build out technologies to receive and interpret the browser signal, and subsequently refrain from tracking that user.

In that respect the mechanism will only allow users to opt out of being tracked by parties that choose to enable the technology. In order to satisfy the FTC, therefore, some form of monitoring and enforcement would likely be required.

One FTC concern the mechanism could address, however, is the use of Flash cookies or other "locally stored objects" for targeting. While the industry's self regulatory efforts deal with HTML cookies only, the header method could, in theory, prohibit sites from placing any tracking data whatsoever on users' machines

Another advantage from Mozilla's point of view is that the approach effectively absolves the company from any responsibility for regulating complience, since it would be technically impossible for it to so.

As Fowler notes, the header mechanism is still very much in its infancy, though he hopes rival browser manufacturers will adopt it as standard. "We are committed to working with the technical community to standardize the header across the industry. We ask that sites and advertisers join with us to recognize this new header and honor people’s privacy choices just as they are with opt-outs for [online behavioral advertising]," he wrote.

Meanwhile the FTC is currently in the process of collecting feedback from the industry on its do not track proposals, the deadline for which is February 17.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, August 29 to take advantage of Super Saver Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Marshall

Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011. 

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

Jobs

    • Sales Planner
      Sales Planner (Verve ) - New YorkAbout Verve   Verve is the leader in location powered mobile advertising. We manage one of the largest mobile...
    • Systems Analyst/Support
      Systems Analyst/Support (Agora Inc. ) - BaltimoreIRIS (Increased Revenue Intuitive Software ) is proprietary software that helps marketers...
    • Client Services Support Specialist
      Client Services Support Specialist (Agora Inc. ) - Delray Beach OVERVIEW:  This position requires a highly motivated and resourceful individual...