Mozilla’s ‘Do Not Track’ Header Is Starting to Catch on With Advertisers
Among the many new features in Firefox 4 is support for the Do Not Track (DNT) HTTP header. If you turn on the DNT header in Firefox 4′s preferences pane, the browser will broadcast a custom header in HTTP requests which tells servers you want to opt out of any tracking cookies.
Mozilla developed the DNT header to give users an easier way to opt out of increasingly intrusive online tracking by websites and advertisers. The header is, in the long run, a far better solution than constantly updating cookie-based block lists, which is currently the main solution for most users.
The problem with the DNT header is that, until now, no websites actually looked for it.
That, however, is changing. Mozilla announced today that the AP News Registry has implemented support for the DNT header across 800 news sites, which see more than 175 million unique visitors every month. That’s a huge shot in the arm for Do Not Track, which was previously a great idea, but one with little real world application.
Starting today, provided you turn on the DNT preference in Firefox 4, the AP News Registry will no longer set any cookies.
Mozilla also reports that it is in talks with the Digital Advertising Alliance to get the self-regulating group to support the DNT header as well. Strange though it may sound, the online ad industry actually has a decent track record of working with privacy advocates and even offers its own cookie-based opt out list. In other words, there is a good chance that DNT will be broadly adopted within the online ad industry.
While the DNT header seems well on its way to becoming a de facto standard (and a real standard, provided the W3C accepts it), it’s important to bear in mind that it will never stop rogue advertisers who choose to ignore your DNT settings. For the bad apples in the bunch, cookie-based blocking will remain the only viable option.
Footprints photo by Vinoth Chandar/Flickr/CC