The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is making a second attempt to sell online publishers and ad networks on a Do Not Track specification.
The new guidelines have the backing of privacy peeps at Disconnect, blogging website Medium, search engine DuckDuckGo, and analytics biz Mixpanel. Also on board are the developers of AdBlock as well as the Firefox, Chrome, and Safari web browsers, all of which will let users turn on "do not track" notifications to websites.
The policy places strict limits on what personal information can be gathered by servers, and when permission must be obtained to log and store data. Netizens should be able to tick a box in their browser that instructs websites to obey the policy – at least, that's the plan, anyway.
"We are greatly pleased that so many important Web services are committed to this powerful new implementation of Do Not Track, giving their users a clear opt-out from stealthy online tracking and the exploitation of their reading history," said Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist with the EFF.
Like the previous Do Not Track effort, this latest campaign suffers from the critical weakness of being opt-in. Site operators and advertisers have to enable their pages to recognize and respect the do-not-track policy. They do this by inserting code into their pages to check for browsers who have Do Not Track turned on.
This creates a major hole, as the advertising and tracking sites that perform most of the unwanted snooping on user browsing habits are the ones who are least likely to actually opt in to the Do Not Track system.
The EFF says as much in its FAQ file, admitting that those who are doing the unwanted tracking probably could not care less about Do Not Track preferences.
"This policy is not intended to be compatible with business practices that involve the non-consensual collection of Internet users' reading habits or online activities," the EFF said.
"It is a document intended to give users strong privacy protections, which means that in the current web environment only some companies are going to be willing and able to post it."
We will see which, if any, advertisers decide to hop on board with the new Do Not Track effort. ®