Story 2015-10-15 QHZ7 Should People Be Able to Demand That Websites 'Do Not Track' Them?

Should People Be Able to Demand That Websites 'Do Not Track' Them?

in internet on (#QHZ7)
Via Soylent
"A universal do-not-track feature has been advocated by privacy groups after being introduced by the Federal Trade Commission in 2010. But the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – composed of software companies, academics, privacy groups, and others who determine international Web-browsing standards – has long struggled to develop a unified approach for the feature.

The somewhat-arcane debate over Internet tracking has mostly simmered quietly, but now some lawmakers are arguing that a working group the consortium set up to develop the standard has become overly influenced by tech industry concerns, putting those interests ahead of protecting consumers from the possibility of privacy invasion. The group is currently chaired by representatives from Adobe and Intel.

"Unfortunately, the group's composition no longer reflects the broad range of interests and perspectives needed to develop a strong privacy standard," Sen. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minnesota, and Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas wrote in a letter on Wednesday to the consortium. "The 'Do Not Track' standard should empower consumers to stop unwanted collection and use of their personal data. At the same time, the standard should not permit certain companies to evade important consumer protections and engage in anticompetitive practices."
Reply 11 comments

Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 3, Interesting)

by on 2015-10-15 10:02 (#QJ0M)

This is a good article explaining how Facebook is becoming even more intrusive, and how it might be violating current laws:

I'd say web browsers are to blame. They are built on the model of "trust everything", which is the source of so many problems. Popups and the blink tag are a thing of the past, because web browsers chose to eliminate them. They could just as easily eliminate most "web bugs" that allow user tracking and other annoyances. If privacy and security were primary considerations, instead of "Does this pixel show up EXACTLY where it was supposed to?" the web could be a far faster, safer, and more private place.

In the extreme case, imagine all web browsers only rendered basic HTML by default... If you want to accept cookies, load images, scripts, or 3rd party CSS on a given page, you just hit a toolbar button to do so, but otherwise you get the basic version (with placeholders) with no possibility of 3rd party tracking, no floating toolbars or overlay ads, no user-hostile scripts that disable right-clicking, etc. It would be slightly inonvenient for users, but has many advantages, and would be a strong incentive for sites to rely less on those web bugs.

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-15 20:53 (#QM26)

Interesting article.

You raise some good points, too. The problem I see with making browsers more focused on privacy and security is that so many websites would stop working with them. Hotmail, GMail, and so many others would become even more useless than they presently are, and people would just refuse to use them rather than demand that the website changes its policies.

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-15 20:55 (#QM27)

Probably should turn my mind on before I get out of bed, rather than later in the day:

... and people would just refuse to use the secure browsers rather than demand that the website changes its policies.

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-16 10:34 (#QNR5)

How.. did you turn your mind off? Frozen?

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-18 00:32 (#QTGG)

Pretty much! I drank a cold Dr. Pepper too fast.

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-23 01:37 (#RBEJ)

I meant the movie...

Re: Facebook increasing tracking (Score: 1)

by on 2015-10-17 15:30 (#QSHW)

I've recently started using the browser extension uMatrix for control over the first and third party requests made by a website. Previously, I used RequestPolicy for this, but uMatrix allows for finer grained control, such as blocking/allowing a specific class of request (such as images, css, or javascript) by domain on a site-by-site basis. The inbuilt support to block known bad hosts is also a plus. In the extreme case, you can achieve the functionality that you mentioned by blocking everything by default.

I think that's backwards (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-10-15 20:47 (#QM1F)

I don't think users should demand that websites do not track us, I think that websites should be asking us if we mind that they track us. An important distinction - in the first, they assume that they have this right, in the second they ask us for permission.

Windows (Score: 1)

by on 2015-10-15 22:33 (#QM9S)

It is getting to the point where users need a "do not track" flag for Windows. One flag: no tracking, spying, reporting home, telemetry.. or anything else.

Color me skeptical (Score: 1)

by on 2015-10-19 16:37 (#QZ61)

Legal solutions for technical problems don't usually work out well. You'll be able to demand what ever you want, what will happen is anyone's guess. Large companies will likely try to follow the law, but purposefully or not, fail to. Smaller companies will totally ignore it, as the evidence that you are being tracked is difficult to collect and probably more difficult to prove in a court of law.

Like someone else said, we need to redo how the HTTP and browsers work to try and come up with a technical assurance that no tracking is taking place. Of course that's easier said then done. And really, I'm not sure it can be done.