The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants more privacy on the Internet and has introduced some clear rules for the web to follow by revising standards for browsers and apps that have Do Not Track settings.
The Do Not Track standard was announced in partnership with privacy extensions Disconnect, blogging platform Medium, private search engine DuckDuckGo, and analytics biz Mixpanel. Also on board are the developers of AdBlock as well as the Firefox, Chrome, and Safari web browsers, all of which will allow users turn on Do Not Track notifications to websites.
The new policy places strict limits on websites and advertisers from tracking users through cookies, fingerprints, and supercookies when users enable the Do Not Track setting in their browsers. Most notably, the policy makes it clear on what personal information can be collected by servers, and when permission must be obtained to log and store data. However, some exceptions apply, such as gathering data to comply with the law, or to complete an online purchase.
This is the second such attempt by the EFF to sell online publishers and ad networks industry on a Do Not Track standard. The last campaign has been severely condemned by the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft.
Like the first Do Not Track effort, this latest iteration suffers from the significant weakness of being opt-in. Advertisers and site operators have to enable their pages to identify and respect the do-not-track policy. They do this by installing code into their pages to check for browsers who have Do Not Track turned on.
This creates a major shortcoming, as the advertising and tracking sites that initiate most of the unwanted scrutiny on user browsing habits are the ones who are least likely to actually opt in to the Do Not Track system.
In its own admission in the FAQ file, EFF says that those who are carrying out the unwanted snooping probably could not care less about the Do Not Track preferences.
This policy is not aimed at all parties, and the EFF said it goes with companies that participate in the non-consensual tracking of personal information like users' reading habits or other online activities.
The document is intended to provide users strong privacy protections, however, in the current web environment only a few companies are going to be willing and able to post it, EFF further added.