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What is online tracking? »

When we go online, whether using a computer or mobile devices, we produce data in some form. Most of the time, the data is basic information about who we are…  more »


The World Wide Web

What is the W3C? »

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time  more »


Cookies

How the public feels about tracking »

Consumer Action released a public opinion survey that found people want control over tracking. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe they…  more »


Laptop

What is DNT? »

Do Not Track (DNT) is a technology and policy proposal that allows you to tell websites – through something called a “header” which is kind of a like a sign…  more »


Advertisers

Why do advertisers ignore DNT? »

Advertisers make money by tracking and collecting information about you as you surf the web. They use “cookies” or small bits of downloaded software to capture…  more »


protect yourself

Do I have DNT? How do I turn it on? »

Learn if your browser supports Do Not Track and if it is currently turned on or off. Here are instructions on how to turn DNT on (or off) in a specific browser:…  more »


What is online tracking?

protect yourself

When we go online, whether using a computer or mobile devices, we produce data in some form. Most of the time, the data is basic information about who we are and what we are doing online. But when enough of that data is gathered together and combined with other information known about you, personal details that we may consider to be private become known to a vast universe of invisible entities. When we are followed around online, and information about our activities is recorded then used to identify us and connect to further information about our habits online and offline, this is called "online tracking."

Many people are surprised to learn that their activities online, including the websites they visit and services they use, are being collected and shared by a variety of commercial and governmental entities. This is because tracking is largely invisible to consumers. Consumers expect that a website they visit (called a "first party") might collect and share some information about them, but they hardly expect that hundreds of unrelated companies like advertisers and marketers (called "third parties") are following their every move and recording them. Advertisers utilize online tracking in order to increase their revenue by sending ads that they consider to be more relevant to your life. Though trading personal information to get more personalized ads may seem attractive, it's not really a value proposition: consumers aren't just in the dark about the extent of online tracking, they mostly do not have a choice whether or not it occurs.

What is the W3C?

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential. Visit W3C for more information.

W3C is the body that has been working on defining what it would mean for companies to create and implement Do Not Track.

How the public feels about tracking

Cookies

Consumer Action released a public opinion survey that found people want control over tracking. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe they should have the right to control the collection of their personal information. Most consumers (90%) are seeking tools that allow them to make a choice about tracking. And just over 90% strongly believe that their chosen “Do not track” preference should be respected. 

What is DNT?

Laptop

Do Not Track (DNT) is a technology and policy proposal that allows you to tell websites – through something called a “header” which is kind of a like a sign you carry around with you as you surf – you do not wish to be tracked. 

Much like the popular Do Not Call registry, Do Not Track provides users with a clear and simple way to tell companies not to follow them online. However, for Do Not Track to work, the websites visited by consumers must agree to honor the preference to not be tracked. Though several large companies have already committed to honor Do Not Track, many more have refused because it threatens advertising dollars.

When Do Not Track is on, it means you may see more general ads and receive less personalized services. For example, a Do Not Track request might mean you would have to type in your user name and password each time you want to access a site you visit regularly, rather than being automatically signed in.

Why do advertisers ignore DNT?

Advertisers

Advertisers make money by tracking and collecting information about you as you surf the web. They use “cookies” or small bits of downloaded software to capture this information. The information they get (such as websites you’ve visited, products you’ve purchased) is used to target advertising to you. Advertisers think they would lose money by not targeting specific ads to you; thus, they have refused to honor a DNT signal. 

The launch of Internet Explorer 10, which includes Do Not Track on by default, was a huge controversy in the online ad business. The advertisers claimed it was the browser making the choice, not browser users. However, numerous studies and our recent poll show that consumers have clearly asked for DNT to be available via default. See Privacy and Modern Advertising and AdChoices?, two academic papers that discuss the issues.

Some advertisers are taking steps to honor DNT.

Do I have DNT? How do I turn it on?

protect yourself

Learn if your browser supports Do Not Track and if it is currently turned on or off. Here are instructions on how to turn DNT on (or off) in a specific browser: Firefox | Internet Explorer | Safari.

Another option is to check out is the free software from Abine called DoNotTrackMe.

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