Leading browser privacy tool 'doesn't do anything'

Posted Oct 15, 2018 by Tim Sandle
The “Do Not Track” function, which is found on browsers and which is designed to signal to any websites visited not to track users, does not actually work.
A person browsing the Internet on a Windows Phone smartphone
A person browsing the Internet on a Windows Phone smartphone
Photo Mix / Pexels
The unpicking of the “Do Not Track” setting has come from Gizmodo and the findings will represent bad news to many Internet users. This is based on the high numbers of people who turn on the privacy feature in the expectation that it works. Forrester Research has found around 25 percent of U.S. citizens opt to switch on “Do Not Track”. In addition, Gizmodo Media Group's own assessment has found that nine percent of visitors to its website have the function activated.
The “Do Not Track” setting is so weak that Kashmir Hill, writing for Gizomdo, draws an analogy between “Do Not Track” and a spray-on sunscreen: it might be a product that feels safe, but it does nothing to protect you.
According to Mozilla, most major websites track their visitors' behavior and then sell or provide that information to other firms. This data can be then be used to show ads, products or services specifically targeted at the user based on an interpretation of their preferences. The Do Not Track is the HTTP header field DNT that requests that a web application disable either its tracking or cross-site user tracking. Most leading browsers use the feature, including Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Firefox. However, these leading browsers will not provide details of which websites and web services respect "Do Not Track" requests and how websites interpret them, making the service frustrating for Internet users.
In terms of effectiveness, the limitation arises because there are no legal or technological requirements for the use of DNT. Websites and advertisers can either elect to honor or ignore DNT requests..
One example is with Microsoft
, which despite having the option in its web browser does not accept DNT requests for its own web pages. Another site that does not respect the DNT feature is Facebook. Given that many popular sites eschew the service, users need to look for other privacy features and settings if they wish to avoid unwanted ad content.