Security & Privacy + Software & Apps

Mozilla proposes Do Not Track browser packet headers

Posted on January 24th, 2011 by

The Mozilla foundation, the group behind the Firefox web browser, is proposing a solution to allow web users to opt out of online behavioral advertising using a “do not track HTTP header” provided by the web browser. In this situation, if the option is activated in the browser, sites will be told by the browser, through the insertion of a simple header, that the user does not want to be tracked. Mozilla says that “the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out mechanism than cookies or blacklists.”

This would not replace cookies, and cookies would certainly still be used for certain types of tracking (user names, session IDs, etc.), but this approach does have the beauty of being simple to implement, and any web browser could use it.

However, “The challenge with adding this to the header is that it requires both browsers and sites to implement it to be fully effective.” Assuming that advertisers want a simple solution to allow users to opt out of their systems is perhaps a bit utopian. But, “Mozilla recognizes the chicken and egg problem and we are taking the step of proposing that this feature be considered for upcoming releases of Firefox.”

Time will tell if this type of system is adopted, and if advertisers are willing to use it consistently.