The past few weeks have seen a flurry of attention around a concept known as “Do Not Track” (DNT). DNT, as a legislative or industry-enforced proposal, would create a browser-based mechanism that would empower users to communicate whether or not they want to be “tracked” by certain entities online.
The idea behind this flavor of privacy enhancing technology is not a new one. In 2007, CDT and other consumer groups introduced the idea of DNT in a whitepaper; CDT has also been working for years in international standards bodies to draft standards that would require that rules for data collection and use be communicated along with data itself. CDT has long encouraged browser makers to step up and build the capacity for a DNT-type mechanism into their products, but – as the Wall Street Journal has documented – they have been reluctant.
While DNT is an intriguing idea, and one CDT has supported, it is not a silver bullet. If implemented, it would likely address, at best, just a portion of a larger problem. In its narrowest conception, DNT might give consumers an opportunity to state that they do not want data that has been collected about them to be used for the targeting of behavioral advertisements; enforceable rules would ensure that these expressions of consumer intent are respected.
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