Internet Explorer 10 is the browser shipping with Windows 8 (currently in Release Preview) and it’s got an interesting feature. Do Not Track is a new would-be standard for telling advertisers not to track you online. Microsoft has stated that it will be enabled DNT for IE10 by default.
The Importance Of Privacy
Every single user should have complete and final control over their data. No one should be able to track you if you don’t want to be tracked – not the government and not corporations. I hold this to be fundamentally true.
Do Not Track does not actually stop anyone from tracking you. It “asks nicely” for them to stop tracking you and they have no legal obligation to care. Still, as DNT is incorporated into modern browsers it will hopefully become the standard and it could be enforced both by browsers (blacklisting ads that don’t comply) and the law.
The Big Problem
I’m new to blogging, and while I don’t own this domain or use Google Analytics I can see a lot of information. I see where people come from (the majority of users who visit this blog are from Google), which articles are popular, which tags are popular etc. If I were so inclined it would be very easy to make my blog more targeted to take advantage of the information provided to me. Even with a few days of information I can see a ton about how to increase my blogs popularity.
The same is true for advertisers. This tracking isn’t just about being creepy – it really does help. If I’m getting ads for makeup products I’m not going to click them, if I get an ad for some new book about computer or whatever I’m way more inclined to click that ad.
The sad truth of it all is that ads are what make the internet possible. Everyone has to pay for hosting or come up with some other business model, which means selling you something else. That or you’re paying out of pocket.
So while I commend Microsoft for implementing Do Not Track I’m going to outright say that this is a bad decision for the internet as a whole. It should be a choice but it should be off by default. Put a little box asking users to enable it at first run if you want, explain to them what it means. But turning off tracking for 50% of the internet is not ‘healthy’ for it.
If the entire world turned on DNT and Adblock the internet would have no way to maintain revenue. It’s not that every site would shut down overnight but tons of sites would have to start paying monthly fees and a lot would shut down. I’m not saying to turn DNT off, just think about that.
Personally, I run Adblock Plus (which sends a DNT header) and I whitelist any website that I want to support. Adblock Plus already whitelists ads that it considers to be unobtrusive and that is a policy that I wholeheartedly support.
I think this is a really weighted subject and there’s a lot to talk about here but for now this will do.