Do Not Track
|Response status codes|
|Security access control methods|
Do Not Track (DNT) was a proposed HTTP header field, designed to allow internet users to opt-out of tracking by websites—which includes the collection of data regarding a user's activity across multiple distinct contexts, and the retention, use, or sharing of data derived from that activity outside the context in which it occurred.
The Do Not Track header was originally proposed in 2009 by researchers Christopher Soghoian, Sid Stamm, and Dan Kaminsky. Mozilla Firefox became the first browser to implement the feature, while Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari, Opera and Google Chrome all later added support. Efforts to standardize Do Not Track by the W3C in the Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) Working Group reached only the Candidate Recommendation stage and ended in September 2018 due to insufficient deployment and support.
DNT is not widely adopted by the industry, with companies citing the lack of legal mandates for its use, as well as unclear standards and guidelines for how websites are to interpret the header. Thus, critics proport that it is not guaranteed enabling DNT will actually have any effect at all. The W3C disbanded its DNT working group in January 2019, citing insufficient support and adoption. Apple discontinued support for DNT the following month.
In 2020, a coalition of US-based internet companies announced Global Privacy Control header that spiritually succeeds Do Not Track header. The creators hope that this new header will meet the definition of "user-enabled global privacy controls" defined by California law and European GDPR. In this case, the new header would be automatically strengthened by existing laws and companies would be required to honor it.
The DNT header accepted three values:
1 in case the user does not want to be tracked (opt out),
0 in case the user consents to being tracked (opt in), or null (no header sent) if the user has not expressed a preference. The default behavior required by the standard is not to send the header unless the user enables the setting via their browser or their choice is implied by use of that specific browser.
In 2007, several consumer advocacy groups asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to create a Do Not Track list for online advertising. The proposal would have required that online advertisers submit their information to the FTC, which would compile a machine-readable list of the domain names used by those companies to place cookies or otherwise track consumers.
In July 2009, researchers Christopher Soghoian and Sid Stamm created a prototype add-on for the Firefox web browser, implementing support for the Do Not Track header. Stamm was, at the time, a privacy engineer at Mozilla, while Soghoian soon afterward started working at the FTC. One year later, during a U.S. Senate privacy hearing, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told the Senate Commerce Committee that the commission was exploring the idea of proposing a "do-not-track" list.
In December 2010, the FTC issued a privacy report that called for a "do not track" system that would enable people to avoid having their actions being monitored online.
One week later, Microsoft announced that its next browser would include support for Tracking Protection Lists that block tracking of consumers using blacklists supplied by third parties. In January 2011, Mozilla announced that its Firefox browser would soon provide a Do Not Track solution, via a browser header. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari, Opera and Google Chrome all later added support for the header approach.
In August 2015 a coalition of privacy groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation using W3C's Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) standard proposed that "Do not track" be the goal for advocates to demand of businesses.
In January 2019, the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group was disbanded, citing "insufficient deployment of these extensions" and lack of "indications of planned support among user agents, third parties, and the ecosystem at large." Beginning the following month, Apple removed DNT support from Safari, citing that it could be used as a "fingerprinting variable" for tracking.
Internet Explorer 10 default setting controversy
When using the "Express" settings upon installation, a Do Not Track option is enabled by default for Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8. Microsoft faced criticism for its decision to enable Do Not Track by default from advertising companies, who say that use of the Do Not Track header should be a choice made by the user and must not be automatically enabled. The companies also said that this decision would violate the Digital Advertising Alliance's agreement with the U.S. government to honor a Do Not Track system, because the coalition said it would only honor such a system if it were not enabled by default by web browsers. A Microsoft spokesperson defended its decision however, stating that users would prefer a web browser that automatically respected their privacy.
On September 7, 2012, Roy Fielding, an author of the Do Not Track standard, committed a patch to the source code of the Apache HTTP Server, which would make the server explicitly ignore any use of the Do Not Track header by users of Internet Explorer 10. Fielding argued that Microsoft's decision "deliberately violates" the Do Not Track specification because it "does not protect anyone's privacy unless the recipients believe it was set by a real human being, with a real preference for privacy over personalization". The Do Not Track specification did not explicitly mandate that the use of Do Not Track actually be a choice until after the feature was implemented in Internet Explorer 10. Fielding pointed out that Microsoft knew its false signals claiming that users had chosen Do Not Track would be ignored, and that its goal was to effectively give an illusion of privacy while still catering to their own interests. On October 9, 2012, Fielding's patch was commented out, restoring the previous behavior.
On April 3, 2015, Microsoft announced that as of Windows 10, it would comply with the specification and no longer enable Do Not Track as part of the operating system's "Express" default settings, but that the company will "provide customers with clear information on how to turn this feature on in the browser settings should they wish to do so".
Very few companies actually supported DNT, due to a lack of regulatory or voluntary requirements for its use, and unclear standards over how websites should respond to the header. Websites that honor DNT requests include Medium, and Pinterest. Despite supporting it in its Chrome web browser, Google did not implement support for DNT on its websites, and directed users to its online privacy settings and opt-outs for interest-based advertising instead. The Digital Advertising Alliance, Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Direct Marketing Association does not require its members to honor DNT signals.
Use of ad blocking software to block web trackers and advertising had become increasingly common (with users citing both privacy concerns and performance impact as justification), while Apple and Mozilla began to add privacy enhancements (such as "tracking protection") to their browsers, that are designed to reduce undue cross-site tracking. In addition, laws such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have imposed restrictions on how companies are to store and process personal information.
Global Privacy Control
Global Privacy Control (GPC) is a proposed HTTP header field that can be used to inform websites of the user's wish to have their information not be sold or used by ad trackers. GPC was developed in 2020 by privacy tech researchers such as Wesleyan University professor Sebastian Zimmeck and former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission Ashkan Soltani, as well as a group of privacy focused companies including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Automattic, the owner of Tumblr and WordPress. The signal has been implemented by privacy extension DuckDuckGo, The New York Times, and privacy browser Brave and is supported by Firefox creator, Mozilla as well as former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. GPC is a spiritual successor to the Do Not Track header that was created in 2009 but didn't find widespread success due to the lack of legislation that would require companies to legally respect the Do Not Track header. GPC is an attempt to be a valid Do Not Sell My Personal Information signal according to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which stipulates that websites are legally required to respect a signal sent by users who want to opt-out of having their personal data sold.
- Do Not Track legislation
- Common non-standard request headers
- HTTP cookie § Privacy and third-party cookies
- Direct Marketing Association
- Better Business Bureau
- Evil bit
- Global Privacy Control
- Soghoian, Christopher. "The History of the Do Not Track Header". Slight Paranoia. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Julia Angwin (2011-01-21). "Web Tool On Firefox To Deter Tracking". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- IEBlog (2010-12-07). "IE9 and Privacy: Introducing Tracking Protection".
- Nick Wingfield (2011-04-14). "Apple Adds Do-Not-Track Tool to New Browser". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
- Opera Desktop Team (2012-02-11). "Core update with Do Not Track, and mail and theme fixes". Opera.com. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
- "Longer battery life and easier website permissions". 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-11-06. Cite journal requires
- "W3C Tracking Protection Working Group". www.w3.org.
- Schunter, Matthias (6 November 2018). "Final version of the note". public-tracking (Mailing list).
- "Tracking Preference Expression (DNT)". w3c.github.io.
- "'Do Not Track' Privacy Tool Doesn't Do Anything". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
- "WG closed · w3c/dnt@5d85d6c". GitHub. Retrieved 2019-02-07.
- Hill, Kashmir. "Apple Is Removing 'Do Not Track' From Safari". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2019-02-07.
- Goodin, Dan (2020-10-08). "Now you can enforce your privacy rights with a single browser tick". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
- "Do Not Track- Universal Web Tracking Opt-Out". Retrieved 2011-04-11.
- "The History of the Do Not Track Header" (PDF). Center for Democracy and Technology. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Zetter, Kim (2009-08-17). "Outspoken Privacy Advocate Joins FTC". Wired News. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Corbin, Kenneth (2010-07-28). "FTC Mulls Browser-Based Block for Online Ads". Internet News. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
- Angwin, Julia (2010-12-02). "FTC Backs Do-Not-Track System for Web". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Angwin, Julia (2010-12-07). "Microsoft to Add 'Tracking Protection' to Web Browser". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Angwin, Julia (2011-03-15). "Microsoft Adds Do-Not-Track Tool to Browser". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Longer battery life and easier website permissions". 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Abel, Jennifer (6 August 2015). "Privacy groups offer "Do Not Track" compromise; will online advertisers and publishers accept it?". consumeraffairs.com. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
- "Apple is removing the Do Not Track toggle from Safari, but for a good reason". Macworld. 2019-02-07. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
- "Internet Explorer 10 Released for Windows 7". PC Magazine. November 13, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Brendon Lynch (2012-08-07). "Do Not Track in the Windows 8 Setup Experience". Microsoft on the issues blog. Archived from the original on 2012-08-08.
- "Microsoft ticks off advertisers with IE10 'Do Not Track' policy". CNET. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- "Microsoft's "Do Not Track" Move Angers Advertising Industry". Digits. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- "Microsoft sticks to its guns, keeps Do Not Track on by default in IE10". Ars Technica. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- "Apache Web software overrides IE10 do-not-track setting". CNET. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- "Apache Won't Override Do-Not-Track Headers". MediaPost Communications. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
- "Keep this in, but commented out: also provide a little · apache/httpd@3dd6fb6". GitHub. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- "Microsoft rolls back commitment to Do Not Track". Computerworld. IDG. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- "Here's The Gaping Flaw in Microsoft's 'Do Not Track' System For IE10". Business Insider. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
- Bacchus, Arif. "Millions of People Use 'Do Not Track' Tool Which Does Nothing". Digital Trends. Designtechnica Corporation. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
- "Digital Advertising Alliance Gives Guidance to Marketers for Microsoft IE10 'DO NOT TRACK' Default Setting". Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- Fleishman, Glenn (2019-03-17). "How the tragic death of Do Not Track ruined the web for everyone". Fast Company. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
- "'Do Not Track' Is Back, and This Time It Might Work". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- "Now you can enforce your privacy rights with a single browser tick". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
- "Global Privacy Control emerges as latest attempt to let netizens choose whether they want to be tracked online". The Register. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
- "Global Privacy Control Protocol Aims to Pick Up Where Do Not Track Left Off". Decipher. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- "Tech-publisher coalition backs new push for browser-level privacy controls". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- Shankland, Stephen. "Privacy push could stop some annoying website pop-ups and online tracking". CNET. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- "Global Privacy Control initiative aims to help consumers exercise privacy rights". IAPP. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- "DuckDuckGo, EFF, and others just launched privacy settings for the whole internet". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
- "California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)". State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2020.