As the demand grows for consumer privacy on the internet, Apple Inc. is the latest company to take a step in the right direction. They have added a Do Not Track option to the latest test version of their new browser.
As the WSJ reports, "The tool is included within the latest test release of Lion, a version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system that is currently available only to developers. The final version of the operating system is scheduled to be released to the public this summer."
Do Not Track is the term used for options that let users opt-out of online tracking by third parties, usually marketers who wish to monitor and keep track of users' web traffic. The way these options work within browsers is to send out a short message to sites that request no information be taken about the user's internet habits. The key word here is request, as it is not yet mandatory for advertisers or web companies to honor the Do Not Track system.
Do Not Track was proposed by the FTC last December. Last month, they testified before the Senate regarding the progress of the initiative and what they propose for the future as well. Earlier this week Senators John Kerry and John McCain co-sponsored a privacy bill that proposes a comprehensive opt-out of information that would be mandatory by law. Senator Kerry said that this "robust" opt-out would render specific Do Not Track options unnecessary.
With Apple joining the party, it makes Google the only company not to have a Do Not Track option built directly into their browser, Chrome. Both IE9 and Firefox 4 have these options.
According to the WSJ:
A spokesman for Google, which is a major player in online advertising, said the company "will continue to be involved closely" in industry discussions about do-not-track. In the meantime, he said Google offers an add-on program for Chrome that users can download called "Keep My Opt-Outs" that will let users request that their data not be used for targeted advertising.
It will be interesting to see if Do Not Track becomes the mandated norm or even more comprehensive consumer privacy is pushed through Congress with the Kerry-McCain bill or one very similar. Some argue that the Kerry-McCain bill does not go far enough, but is the best of the current privacy bills on the table. It also has that bi-partisan thing going for it, which seems to help legislation get passed.