Does “Do Not Track” Really Protect Your Privacy?
There's been a lot in the news about “Do Not Track” options on social networking sites and web browsers. This is an option being offered by some sites, such as Twitter, that prevents your internet activity from being tracked. Google and Yahoo are slowly getting on board with the “Do Not Track” option. This is an effort to comply with President Obama's Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
You have always been able to adjust your privacy setting in your browser and on social networking sites to make it harder for companies to track your activity. But how many of us really want to go in and tinker with our browser or bother with each and every social network account we have?
According to a recent Time Techland article, the opt out option is used only 1% of the time. The new “Do Not Track” option will be easier to use and hopefully more people will implement it.
So you choose to use the “Do Not Track” option. Does that really keep your activity private? Well yes and no. While the site which offers this option will block advertisers and others from seeing who you talk to and what ads you click on, remember this is only for this one particular site. In another recent article Time Techland rates various sites for compliance with the “Do Not Track” option. Here are the grades they received.
- Twitter – A
- Yahoo – B
- Google – B-
- Facebook – D
It's no surprise Facebook received such a low grade. Much of their revenue is generated from knowing what ads to present to users while on the site. It is speculated since Facebook has gone public, pressure from stockholders will force Facebook to track their users even more to increase their bottom line.
The biggest challenge for a site implementing the “Do Not Track” option for their users is the loss of revenue from advertisers. Information about what users click on, read, and what sites they visit generates a lot of revenue for many sites. Without this information sites will have to get more creative on how to entice advertisers onto their sites.
Advertisers are the main reason Facebook has remained free of charge. The majority of websites on the internet today rely on advertisers to generate the bulk of their revenue to stay up and running.
The “Do Not Track” option is available on all of the major web browsers except Google Chrome. Google collects information on Chrome users to help generate advertiser revenue.
It also collects information on the searches you do with Google. In a documentary about Google a few years back, it was revealed that each and every search done on Google is stored in a database. This includes who did the searches and what they were searching for. Google did state that it does purge the database once the information is analyzed, but the very fact they can do this should be a wake up call.
Initiatives like “Do Not Track” are a step in the right direction for internet privacy. Just be aware that compliancy is not mandatory, and is only for the one website you choose to use this option. Right now unless you use a VPN, the best assumption is the internet is not secure. So be smart and use the internet wisely knowing someone, somewhere is probably tracking what you do.