As the US government draws closer to mandating the use of do-not-track tool in the browsers.
Microsoft and Mozilla may head towards some kind of agreement to provide their users the means and power to stop the ad networks from tracking their behavior.
Gary Kovacs, the chief executive of Mozilla, told the Wall Street Journal, due to the increasing row over privacy norms and violations, the government will soon be mandating the user of do-not-track tools in the browser.
He further advised that the web privacy issue doesn’t necessarily need to be regulated, but as signs shown by the government, it probably will be.
The launch of IE9 brings with it the do-not-track technology. Microsoft has already submitted this technology to W3C for ratification and acceptance as an industry standard.
The technology uses Tracking Protection Lists. When the users visit some site either by directly typing it into the address bar or by clicking on the hyperlinks, these sites get added onto the list. So effectively the browser will protect that list and wouldn’t let it in the hands of the sites that would otherwise want to track the user behavior and usage.
The proposal also contains mention of do-no-track header (http://www.w3.org/Submission/2011/SUBM-web-tracking-protection-20110224/#dnt-uas) which is being used by Mozilla as their approach toward do-no-track technology. The proposal has been submitted not to W3C but to the IETF.
The way this header approach works is that every time a GET request is sent to the web servers, the do-no-track header will notify the sites and networks that the user has opted in for do-not-track option. Mozilla in its proposal has provided the semantics and syntax of sort for the manner in which the dialog might occur between the browser and the sites.
The stage is not still set for which proposal might be accepted and according to Alex Fowler, Mozilla’s global privacy and public policy leader, in the blog (http://firstpersoncookie.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/mozilla-makes-joint-submission-to-ietf-on-dnt/), W3C has been dealing with privacy related standards and has been working on them for quite a while now, HTTP as a protocol comes under the purview of IETF.
The third major player in the browser arena is Google with its Chrome. The approach proposed by Google includes introduction of an extension for its browser that will store the user’s privacy settings and will have options of opt-out features.
One important thing to keep in mind and which might be a problem in near future is the lack of broad industry backing. For the do-not-track technologies to be a success there has to be a strong industry wide backing without which these technologies will be of no use and might just remain as mere best practices.
The easier option out of the three seems to be the do-not-track header which doesn’t require any list keeping or profile settings. Even though Microsoft has put forward its Protection List mechanism for review with W3C, a place holder in its proposal for the do-not-track header certainly sends out a clear message for their inclination towards the do-not-track header technology.