Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 7:14 AM ET, 11/17/2010

What a Do Not Track option might look like

By Cecilia Kang

How would a Do Not Track registry work? Not quite like the popular Do Not Call list its name implies, experts say.

The latter is a phone list that's off limits to telemarketers. The former would be a tool on Internet browsers that designed to block third-party companies from collecting information on the Web sites a user visits.

Upon reading a previous post about a planned House hearing on a Do Not Track option for consumers who don't want their information collected on the Web, Stanford University computer science researcher Jonathan Mayer noted the two are different.

"It employs a very different approach; the developing consensus is not around a list or registry," Mayer wrote in an e-mail. The Do Not Call list, managed by the Federal Trade Commission, is a registry of more than 200 million phone numbers that are hands-off to marketers.

Rather than entering their names on a centrally maintained list, Internet users who don't want advertisers and other firms to follow them on the Web, would use technology to block tracking -- specifically, a tool on their Web browsers.

DoNotTrack.us, a collaboration by Stanford Universities offers one idea for how such a tool would work: Whenever an Internet browser requests content or sends data using HTTP, the protocol that underlies the Web, it can optionally include extra information, called a "header." Do Not Track simply would add a header indicating that the user does not want to be tracked.

"This mechanism mitigates the scalability, cost, and privacy issues inherent in a list," Mayer wrote.

Google and other firms have panned the idea of a Do Not Track mandate, saying the implementation of such a standard technology would be too difficult.

"At present a user cannot opt out of many of the hundreds of tracking services and advertising networks; those that do allow opting out each require setting (and not deleting!) an opt-out cookie," the Do Not Track Web site says. "Much like the popular Do Not Call registry, Do Not Track provides users with a single, persistent setting to opt out of web tracking."

By Cecilia Kang  | November 17, 2010; 7:14 AM ET
Categories:  Privacy  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Google Voice available on iPhone 1 year after denied, FCC questions
Next: Verizon echoes Comcast: Feds shouldn't reign over Internet service providers

No comments have been posted to this entry.

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company