Safari The Latest To Include “Do Not Track”

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Safari is the latest browser to hop aboard the “Do Not Track” bandwagon.

    A report from The Wall Street Journal says the next version of the Safari browser will include “Do Not Track,” the tool which lets users disable tracking functionality on certain websites. If the report is accurate, it will mean Safari has joined Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer as browsers who have implemented it. Only Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome hasn’t added anything official; although there are extensions which will essentially do the same thing.

    Over the past year, web privacy has become one of the core issues in technology. Recently, Senators John Kerry and John McCain introduced a bill which would increase people’s privacy and limit the amount of personal information companies can collect on users. However, the bill did not mention “Do Not Track” specifically.

    This lack of inclusion got one consumer advocacy group upset.

    “We strongly believe that any privacy bill should direct the Federal Trade Commission to require and enforce a “Do Not Track Me” mechanism. Consumers should have the right to use the Internet and mobile devices with confidence that

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    their privacy choices are respected, and with anonymity if they choose,” John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog president, wrote in a letter to Senators McCain and Kerry.

    The report in the Journal did not specify the type of technology that will be used to implement “Do Not Track” in Safari. Mozilla’s version uses an HTTP header; which adds a header indicating the user wishes to not be tracked. Developers must adjust accordingly, something that could take time. Microsoft uses a list of trackers to block; which the user can add themselves to. Google’s “Keep My Opt Outs” remembers a user’s privacy settings, and the desire to opt-out of tracking will be remembered even if their cookies are cleared.

    Both Microsoft and Mozilla’s tracking protection requires the support of advertisers; while Google’s extension does not. However, Microsoft says it has tracking protection that doesn’t require their support.

    Apple did not respond to an inquiry for comment.

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