Do Not Track was a standardized way for browsers to tell services that their owners did not consent to having their activities and usage logged; however, it was subverted by Big Tech and big media companies and turned into a useless tick-box that had virtually no impact on your privacy.
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For more than a decade, consumer rights groups (including EFF) worked with technologists and companies to try to standardize Do Not Track
, a flag that browsers could send to online companies signaling that their users did not want their browsing activity tracked. Despite long hours and backing from the FTC, foot-dragging from the browser vendors and outright hostility from the big online media companies
mean that setting Do Not Track in your browser does virtually nothing to protect your privacy
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The long fight over Do-Not-Track followed a predictable trajectory: a detailed, meaningful pro-privacy system was subverted by big business, and then published as a "standard" that offered virtually no privacy protections.
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Privacy Badger is EFF's free privacy plugin; it blocks trackers and ads from companies that practice "non-consensual tracking," in which your browser's "do not track" instructions are not honored.
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The FCC has rejected Consumer Watchdog's petition to force Internet companies like "Google, Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, and LinkedIn") to honor the "Do Not Track" flag that browsers can send to web-servers, informing them that users do not want their Internet activity to be tracked and shared with third parties. Read the rest
Mozilla has shipped a new version of Firefox whose private mode also blocks tracking beacons for ad networks, which will make private Web usage much harder to track. Read the rest
Adzerk, who serves ads for Bittorrent, Stackexchange, Reddit and other high-profile sites, will honor Do-Not-Track messages from readers' browsers, and its ads will not be blocked by the major ad-blocking software. Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Medium, Mixpanel, Adblock, and Duckduckgo have proposed a new Do Not Track standard aimed at stemming the tide of total ad-blocking by getting publishers, trackers and advertisers to respect users' preferences. Read the rest
The Direct Marketing Association has launched a $1m campaign to convince the public that being tracked online creates "value for consumers".
The Data-Driven Marketing Institute will redouble DMA’s efforts to explain the benefits of the consumer data industry to the public and policymakers, with the goal of preventing needless regulation or enforcement that could severely hamper consumer marketing and stifle innovation, tamping down unfavorable media attention, and reminding and educating consumers about the many and varied ways that their needs are met and they are thrilled and delighted.
Isn't it a bit old-school to found scientific-sounding "institutes" to trick people into liking stuff that's bad for them? Very Big Tobacco. Read the rest
Google has been caught circumventing iOS's built-in anti-ad-tracking features in order to add Google Plus functionality within iPhone's Safari browser. The WSJ reports that Google overrode users' privacy settings in order to allow messages like "your friend Suzy +1'ed this ad about candy" to be relayed between Google's different domains, including google.com and doubleclick.net. This also meant that doubleclick.net was tracking every page you landed on with a Doubleclick ad, even if you'd opted out of its tracking.
I believe that Google has created an enormous internal urgency about Google Plus integration, and that this pressure is leading the company to take steps to integrate G+ at the expense of the quality of its other services. Consider the Focus on the User critique of Google's "social ranking" in search results, for example. In my own life, I've been immensely frustrated that my unpublished Gmail account (which I only use to anchor my Android Marketplace purchases for my phone and tablets, and to receive a daily schedule email while I'm travelling) has somehow become visible to G+ users, so that I get many, many G+ updates and invites to this theoretically private address, every day, despite never having opted into a directory and never having joined G+.
In the iPhone case, it's likely that Google has gone beyond lowering the quality of its service for its users and customers, and has now started to violate the law, and certainly to undermine the trust that the company depends on. This is much more invasive than the time Google accidentally captured some WiFi traffic and didn't do anything with it, much more invasive than Google taking pictures of publicly visible buildings -- both practices that drew enormous and enduring criticism at the expense of the company's global credibility. Read the rest