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'Do not track'? Oh what the heck, go ahead

Zach Miners | May 22, 2014
Chalk up another victory for corporate surveillance: Five years after advocates came up with an easy way to let you browse the Web with just a little privacy, the Do Not Track system is in tatters and that pair of boots you looked at online last month is still stalking you from website to website.

The future doesn't look bright for DNT. Progress toward a standard has been slow. The World Wide Web Consortium recently published a paper aimed at a standard, but it's long overdue.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has voiced fears that any standard that does come about may be so watered down that it won't have any real protections. If there is a stronger standard, regulatory action could be the only thing to get companies to comply.

Chris Soghoian, an Internet privacy researcher and activist who led much of the original development of DNT, foresaw the challenges from the get-go.

"The technology behind implementing the Do Not Track header is trivially easy," he wrote in a blog post in 2011. The more complex problem revolves around what ad networks should do when they receive the header, he said, which is "very much still up in the air."

Three years later, that problem persists.


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