Firefox 4 was made available for public download yesterday (March 22nd) which now comes with a ‘Do Not Track’ (DNT) privacy feature. Take a closer look at this function and it is very different in the way it functions to Internet Explorer 9. Internet Explorer 9 uses a blacklist approach while Firefox doesn’t. The Firefox DNT feature brings together users and advertisers with the option to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of online behavioural ad (OBA) tracking and data collection.
Updated 11/04/11: A glance at Apples’s Mac OS X 10.7 development codenamed ‘Lion’ and we can see they are planning on adding a DNT feature to Safari. The “Do Not Track Me Online bill” in the US has been driving this with all the major browser developers.
IMPORTANT: Firefox 4 does not retain your TABS after you close a session. Here is a work around – use ‘Pin as App Tab’. Right click a TAB and click ‘Pin as App Tab’. This creates a mini TAB which also glows blue if the website you have pinned has an update. Very cool!
So how does DNT work? When a user has enabled the DNT feature, websites (that promote ads via links to ad networks) will be told by Firefox that a user would like to opt-out of OBA. The Firefox 4 DNT feature sends a HTTP header (DNT=1) to the ad networks which means the user has initiated the DNT feature. The HTTP header approach requires no additional software – so no add-ons, cookies, extensions etc.
Updated 31/03/11: A few readers have asked me to update how you enable DNT, as you can get to the ‘Advanced Tab’ one of two ways – the first is with the Menu Bar and the second is with the orange Firefox Tab:
How to enable DNT with the Menu Bar – >Open Firefox >Click Tools >Click Options >Click Advanced Tab >Check ‘Tell websites I do not want to be tracked >(it’s under browsing) Click OK
How to enable DNT with the orange Firefox Tab – >Open Firefox >Click the orange Firefox Tab >Hover across to Options, then click on the 2nd ‘Options’ >Click Advanced Tab >Check ‘Tell websites I do not want to be tracked >(it’s under browsing) Click OK
What about the issues? The major issues with this feature are DNT isn’t set as default and it’s up to the ad networks as to whether they action the DNT=1 HTTP header command. I also haven’t seen any visual indication on Firefox 4 as to whether a website supports the DNT feature, so this is a little unclear on how or whether users will use or more importantly understand this feature.
TIP: Find out how trackable your browser is with https://panopticlick.eff.org/
For me, it’s all about the user having a voice or is that a choice :). Users should have control of their online identity or at least know who/where there identity is being shared with. Users will then feel reassured that they are in control and that is one thing I personally will always champion!
Safe surfing folks!