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The 'Do Not Track' Face-off
By: Jessica Cherok
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If you use the Internet, next week’s W3C conference will be making some big decisions related to how your information is collected online. Users, advocates, advertisers, developers, tech firms, and social media applications are all waiting with bated breath to see what happens.

First, the basics:

Do Not Track, or DNT, is technology enabling users to opt out of their online activities being tracked by websites. Currently, the user has to actively elect to opt out of tracking by disabling the setting within their browser.

However, several browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla, have said they will automatically set DNT to being on without the user having to change the setting to opt out of tracking. In other words, the user would have to opt in to being tracked.

Here’s where things get stupid:

If DNT signals are left off, users may not remember, or even know, to change the setting to opt out of being tracked. It’s an argument heard over and over throughout the Web; people don’t know how to use privacy settings.

By defaulting the DNT setting to being on, users' privacy are automatically protected. Users that want to be tracked can go in and change the setting and be tracked like Tommy Windich is following you (look it up, it’s a cool story).

The other side is that automatically enabling DNT will hurt businesses and degrade the quality of the user’s Internet experience. It puts businesses at risk, and could cost advertising and marketing firms their livelihood.

Furthermore, DNT opponents worry users won’t remember to change their browser settings to allow tracking. Which is a similar, but the complete opposite of DNT supporters fearing that users won’t remember to turn DNT on if it’s not already set by default.

Whichever side you’re on may find itself victorious after next week. To be sure, whichever side loses will have to take an extra step before using their browser the next time.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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