Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mozilla announces "Do not track" feature in Firefox

Mozilla has announced that they will include a "do not track" feature in Firefox 4.1 in response to the FTC's call for the one. Google and Microsoft have also announced "do not track" features, but Firefox 4.1 will probably be released first.

It's a nice first step, or maybe a nice gesture. If the tracking companies don't agree to honor the do-not-follow requests of the browsers, nothing will change, and tracking will be business as usual. Right now no tracking company has agreed.

In reality, though, it may be too late for "do not track." We enjoy a mostly free web surfing experience. "Do not track" could be the end of that. A lot of the free sites that we enjoy are paid for by information gathered while we surf and used to help better target ads at us. Remove that source of revenue and the sites have a choice. Charge for service, or go away. How much would you pay a month for what is now free on ESPN.com. How about Youtube? ? Facebook?

We should control who gathers data on us, how data about us is gathered, and who is doing the gathering. But we have allowed things to get way out of hand. Tracking is central to doing business on the internet and cannot be removed without replacing the revenue it generates (directly and indirectly) unless you want to see a lot of online businesses go under.