‘Do Not Track’ button — what it will and won’t do

February 23, 2012

Alongside the news that the White House will announce voluntary privacy guidelines for Web companies comes the announcement from major online advertisers that they will implement “do not track” technology into Web browsers.

But “do not track” buttons have been a mixed bag in the past because while they have let advertisers know that users don’t want to be followed across the Web, not all advertisers had agreed to abide by the request.

The new agreement from online advertisers appears to give consumer requests a little more oomph.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the 400 companies in the Digital Advertising Alliance have agreed not to use data from consumers who don’t want to be tracked to customize ads or to use the data for certain purposes such as employment, health care or insurance.

They will, however, still use information from these consumers for market research.

In a blog post, Consumer Reports pointed out that the “do not track” technology won’t protect consumers when, for example, they are signed into Google services if they have not opted out of having Google track their Web history. The same is true for social networks such as Facebook, if signed-in users choose to tell the service that they “Like” a product or use their Facebook log-in to connect to another site.

The settings that allow consumers to tell advertisers that they do not want to be tracked are already in Mozilla’s Firefox browser and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Apple has said that it’s working on incorporating the technology into its next build of Safari. Thursday’s announcement confirms that Google will put the button into its Chrome browser.

Google Chrome is currently the fastest-growing browser on the market and has overtaken Mozilla’s Firefox browser in global market share while eating away at Internet Explorer’s leading position.

Related stories:

Voluntary guidelines for Web privacy backed by Obama administration

Chrome overtakes Firefox in global market share

Firefox, Google renew search deal

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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