Last week, I heard an article on NPR (which I can’t seem to find at the moment!) about different Web Browsers adding the “Do Not Track” feature. Microsoft has added it to the next version of Internet Explorer, Mozilla to Firefox, and recently Apple to Safari. Google has a Chrome Extension which is not as easy, but that’s a whole different story…
The gist of the Do Not Track preference, is that you can push a button in your browser preferences to tell every website you visit “Hey! Don’t keep any information about me!”. This came about because last year, the FTC came out with a proposal to create a Do Not Track list similar to the Do Not Call list.
Now personally, I think that the browser makers are implementing this “Do Not Track” feature so that they can punt and say that they’ve done everything they can on the matter. Because the fact is that the “Do Not Track” option doesn’t actually do anything to prevent a website from keeping information about you. Basically, when you visit a website, your Browser has “handshake” with the web server. Your Browser says Hello, I’m So-and-so and I’d like to see page XYZ. The do not track feature basically changes the handshake to tack on And by the way, Don’t Track Me to the end of the request. It’s up to the web server to honor the request and not actually track you. Now, I tell my cats not to do a lot of things, and very rarely do they listen to me.
So unless someone, say Congress, passes a bill that actually introduces repercussions for not honoring the Do Not Track feature, there’s not much incentive for Amazon to not keep track of what you buy online. In the mean time, don’t feel too secure when you turn on the Do Not Track feature in your favorite browser.