Internet regulators, the U.S. government, and the advertising industry have been working for a while now on a thing called ‘Do Not Track,’ a bit of code sent from your browser that tells advertisers not to keep tabs on your online activities. It sounds good – problem is, it doesn’t work. Like, not even a little bit.
This is because advertisers have no obligation to honor Do Not Track (DNT), and most don’t. Some even think that DNT should allow tracking – crazy, I know. Plus, there are a whole slew of other data collectors that track you online that never had any intention of paying attention to DNT, and you need to worry about them just as much as advertisers, maybe more. So what’s a privacy conscious Web user to do?
One great option is to install DoNotTrackMe (DNTMe), the latest anti-tracking browser plugin from Abine. An update of Abine’s DoNotTrackPlus (DNT+), DNTMe includes 200 more advertising companies, and 630 total tracking technologies, on its block list. Abine has also included new analytics charts in DNTMe, which show you exactly which companies are tracking you, as well as the total number of tracking attempts blocked by the plugin. DNTMe also gives you the ability to pick and choose which websites you want to allow tracking technologies to work on, as some sites will not work properly without them. You can also turn on or off tracking from specific advertisers or analytics companies.
The other major update that arrives with DNTMe is the removal of things called “advertiser opt-out cookies.” These cookies are actually “good” for your privacy, as they tell specific advertisers not to track you or show you targeted ads – but, of course, that’s not why Abine removed them. Instead, advertiser opt-out cookies are absent from DNTMe for two reasons: First, a lot of people think all cookies are bad, so when DNT+ let these cookies through, people were getting upset and confused with Abine. Second, the opt-out cookies don’t necessarily stop advertisers from tracking you.
“You’re setting these [opt-out] cookies that advertisers have put out, ostensibly to stop tracking, but in many cases they’re actually not stopping the collection of your data,” says Abine privacy expert Sarah Downey. “Whereas we can actually do that through just simply blocking tracking, which actually works, and is way more effective, and is really simple for our users.”
Downey says that, with DNT+, Abine “wanted to support the advertisers self-regulatory efforts. But when it comes down to it, these opt-out cookies are a failure of advertiser self-regulation. And our users really didn’t like them.”
DNTMe is currently available for Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox, and can be downloaded from Abine’s website for free. Once installed a blue-and-white “cross hairs” icon will appear on your browser’s menu bar. Click it to see exactly who’s trying to keep tabs on your activities.
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