Commentary

Mozilla To Build Do-Not-Track Into Browser

After waffling earlier this year, it now looks as if Mozilla intends to join Microsoft in building a do-not-track into its browser.

In June, comments appeared on the Mozilla message board indicating that the company was considering changing how Firefox handled third-party tracking cookies. At the time, discussion centered on a new default setting that would have cleared the tracking cookies every time users closed their browser.

Such a feature could have had a huge impact on behavioral targeting and analytics because users would have automatically been opted out of online tracking.

At the time, Mozilla decided against the feature. A company spokesperson told MediaPost that the message board post marked only an "exploration of new ways of handling third party cookies" and not a planned feature.

Fast-forward six months and Mozilla is again discussing building a do-not-track system into its browser. Details still remain fuzzy, and it's not clear whether this new system will operate by default -- like the shelved one from June -- or whether users will have to opt in.

advertisement

advertisement

Either way, of course, a browser-based do-not-track isn't perfect. Critics already say say that Microsoft's system will prove easy to circumvent. Internet Explorer's upcoming do-not-track will rely on consumers to enter a "blacklist" of servers but, as MIT's Technology Review argues, companies can bypass that blacklist simply by changing their domain names. Browser-based do-not-track lists also can't prevent non-cookie-based tracking methods, like device fingerprinting.

Still, news that two browser companies intend to offer users the ability to avoid tracking indicates that people could soon have the ability to opt out of a good deal of Web tracking done for marketing purposes.

Next story loading loading..