Back in February The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights was formally unveiled in the US, and it endorses the ‘Do not track’ web browser functionality that already has the support of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL.
In many respects it’s similar to the existing cookie laws being implemented across Europe. The Bill comes at the same time as the European Union is preparing similar regulations. I believe the current cookie law is flawed but has the right ideas at it’s heart. Making end users decide on a website by website basis is painful for the website owners having to implement code to ensure this happens and painful for the consumer it seeks to protect by bombarding them with information and pop-ups they will probably never read or understand.
I think making use of existing technology in the browser is by far the most sensible solution. The browser can contain a list of sites the user is happy to share data with and by default it could reject information sharing until a user has actively chosen to share data.
This would be persistent which is another concern for me when considering the cookie law. If a consumer deletes his/her cookies then their preferences are deleted.
So in the interest of seeing how website owners could honour DNT (do not track) I searched in vain for a matrix of browser support for the functionality within browsers. Information is sparse. Some sites quote browser support for DNT coming in new releases, others states that the browser already supports it (although I’ve not managed to find how to switch it on) . Add to this confusion that individual browser manufacturers are implementing DNT support in different ways and there is a headache waiting to happen.
Disclaimer: I currently work for AOL and work on privacy issues including the EU “cookie law”