While many browsers already feature a "do not track" button, in truth they're largely ineffectual, because advertisers and tracking companies hadn't agreed to honor the system. Now, prompted by the Obama administration's attempt to ensure our online privacy, that is about to change.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a coalition of internet companies, including Google, has agreed to support a "do not track" initiative. The idea is that a button will be embedded in most web browsers, and hundreds of companies will conform to guidelines associated with that button being pressed. According to the WSJ, when that button is clicked:
"The companies have agreed to stop using the data about people's Web browsing habits to customize ads, and have agreed not to use the data for employment, credit, health-care or insurance purposes. But the data can still be used for some purposes such as 'market research' and "product development" and can still be obtained by law enforcement officers."
So, it may not be comprehensive, but it is a start. The announcement will see the 400-company coalition—known as the Digital Advertising Alliance—honoring the system within nine months, according to the WSJ.
Currently Firefox, Internet Explorer and—in the soon-to-be-available Mountain Lion at least—Safari all offer the option of using a "do not track" button. Google is expected to follow suit and include a similar feature by the end of 2012.
It's a minor step in a major battle, sure. But its small victories like these that could gradually improve the state of our online privacy problems. [Wall Street Journal; Image: wÅ‚odi]