Diggin' technology every day

October 4, 2012

IE – Do not track and false senses of security

Filed under: General — Tags: — Nate @ 9:52 am

Came across another article on slashdot which talks about advertisers blasting Microsoft for setting the default option of do not track in IE 10.

Someone in the Apache organization went as far as to submit a patch that would cause Apache to ignore the setting if the browser is IE 10, it seems more people think the patch is a bad idea based on the comments.

Of course the argument is if enough people say don’t track me then the value of advertising goes down and advertisers will stop honoring the setting, something that many advertisers already say they don’t plan to honor.

Two big associations, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Digital Advertising Alliance, represent 90% of advertisers. Downey says those big groups have devised their own interpretation of Do Not Track. When the servers controlled by those big companies encounter a DNT=1 header, says Downey, “They have said they will stop serving targeted ads but will still collect and store and monetize data.

I can’t help but think this whole DNT thing is somewhat of a conspiracy, to induce users into a false sense of security that they are not being tracked. Even if the advertisers didn’t admit to not tracking you – why trust them?

Instead these privacy advocates(assuming that’s who is pushing this initiative) should promote better methods of stopping tracking on the user’s end, and not relying on the advertisers to play nice.

If you haven’t tried this recently – I suggest you do – clear your browser cookies, enable the function in the browser that prompts for every cookie, and go about your normal day, the growth in tracking cookies over the years is just insane. I’ve had my main browser set to prompt me for many years now.

The worst offender of a regular site I visit at least is the Cyanide & Happiness comic strip, while the comics are wonderful, they must have signed up every ad serving company in the world because I can’t leave the page open for long without getting hit with a cookie from a domain my browser has never seen before. Ads are one thing – I’m just going to make it more difficult for you to track me by not allowing cookies.

Sometimes I get in trouble, when I reject a cookie that somehow breaks site functionality and I have to go and try to track it down and re-enable cookies(or in some cases I use another browser that accepts all cookies), but the number of cases of that is pretty rare, I guess I am a little surprised how much cookies are used while at the same time how most of the web remains fully functional even without them.

I worked for a internet behavior targeting company a few years ago, they are still around, though their stuff never really took off. For them at least they were pretty honest about tracking vs not tracking etc. There was a little uproar about a year ago when they, amongst other companies were found to be setting tracking cookies even when you opted out. I emailed the developer (*the* since there is only one) that works on that product and he quickly shot back saying it was a bug and they fixed it within hours of being notified – and that even though the cookie was being set the back end was not using it, so it was more cosmetic.

At the end of the day people don’t value their privacy very much at all on average, I think I saw a survey at one point recently that showed people would sell out their privacy on line for less than $1, if this is the case what’s the point of Do not track ? Give people a choice do they want to be tracked or do they want to pay a fee to use Facebook? or Google? or whatever. Obviously 99.9999999999% of people will choose to be tracked.

For me I will keep blocking cookies and doing my part to make it just a little harder to track me (at least at the advertising company I was at there was no attempt to track via IP etc, if you didn’t have the cookie you weren’t tracked). At the same time I do not use any Ad blocking software, though I do have a plugin called Remove it Permanently, where I can right click on an object (Ad or whatever) and remove it.

Checking on the cookie settings I have here in Firefox –

  • 296 hosts or domains that I accept/trust all cookies for
  • 2,186 hosts or domains that I accept cookies “For session only”
  • 6,071 hosts or domains that I reject cookies for

I don’t visit many sites either, most of the ones I visit are tech related and a lot of them don’t even have ads on them(blogs, documentation etc). The addiction I had to the Internet (more IRC than anything else, for those that used it) in the mid/late 90s is long dead(died along with the IRC places I hung out at whithered along with the first tech bubble). Sort of ironically I saw recently that some medical folks were going to start including internet addiction as some sort of formal problem now. I sort of see the Internet like many see TV – billions of channels and not much happening.

You want my attention? I think back to all of the internet ads I have seen over the years, and honestly the only one that I can remember that I clicked on, and made a sale actually was from that X10 home automation company. This has got to be probably back in 1999-2002 time frame. I think the ad was on one of the internet tech news sites (Not ‘el Reg, more like Ziff Davis type of site). Why did it get my attention? Hooters!  After I clicked on it and saw what the technology was about it looked pretty neat so I got some of their wireless video stuff. It was interesting and I used it off and on, though it never worked quite as well as I would of liked, picture quality was not so hot.  I’m sure there have been some others that I have made sales on as well, though none of them have stayed in my memory like that X10 ad 🙂

I’ll end with – good job Microsoft, can’t believe I’m giving Microsoft more kudos, but I think it’s a good setting to have as a default. It’s one less thing the user has to click when running their computer.

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