Ever since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released its report on online user privacy, the government body has been quite insistent with Internet browser developers that the privacy rights of their users should be upheld.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants the browser developers to install a system similar to the ‘Do Not Call’ system, which prevents telemarketers from calling users on their phones.
As a result of the pressure from the FTC, developers have started incorporating measures to prevent advertisers from tracking users against the wishes of the user.
Google has built a Chrome Extension that enables users to permanently opt out of ad tracking. The tool is known as ‘Keep My Opt-Outs’. This feature preserves the user’s privacy settings even if cookies are wiped out. Users will, however, have to opt out of ad tracking themselves.
Google Chrome extension ‘Keep My Opt-outs’
Mozilla, on the other hand, provides an HTTP header that lets users declare a preference along with the basic information they provide to any site that they visit. However, there is one major catch in this system – for it to be successful, advertisers will have to agree to honour the user’s preferences as declared in the HTTP header. According to The Wall Street Journal, no advertisers have agreed to be a part of this deal, so far.
Microsoft has also announced that their new browser, IE 9 will include a feature that will provide “Tracking Protection” to their users.
While it is a good sign that browser developers have started moving in this direction, many advocates of user privacy believe that these opt-out features are just not enough.
A number of privacy advocates insist that instead of opt-out features, which leave the task of opting out to the user, thereby going un-noticed by the non-techie majority, the browsers should enable opt-in features, which safeguard user privacy by default. This way, user tracking by default will be forced to end, and advertisers would only be able to track users who have clearly indicated that they are happy to let advertisers study their browsing habits and target ads at them accordingly.