Mozilla adds Do-Not-Track to Firefox

A diagram of how Firefox's Do Not Track HTTP Header Might Work.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Scott McNeely, one of the co-founders and the longtime CEO of Sun Microsystems, has a great line about online privacy. "You have zero privacy," he said. "Get over it."

That was 11 years ago. The online privacy discussion has only gotten more heated since. Congress is probably going to weigh in later this year. Today, two of the biggest web-browser makers said they'd start letting consumers decide how much personal information is collected when they're online. Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.


Steve Henn: A couple weeks before Christmas, I was searching for a special video camera. I couldn't find it online. Then four days before Christmas, Amazon sent me an e-mail with link to the exact camera I was looking for. It was both wonderful and creepy at the same time. I got what I wanted, but I knew Amazon had been watching on me.

Today Mozilla said it's going to add a do-not-track feature to its Firefox web browser.

Ryan Calo: What it does is actually sends a signal the advertiser saying: Don't track this user; this user doesn't want to be tracked. But it is up to the advertiser to end the tracking.

Ryan Calo is the director of the Consumer Privacy Project at Stanford Law School and serves on Mozilla's privacy advisory board.

Calo: So in theory, if everyone complies, that would result in a tracking free experience.

And Google also unveiled a privacy tool for its web browser today. It's a plug-in that lets you opt out of most targeted ads. But with that plug-in in place, companies are still free to collect your data, even if they don't use it.

Washington's leaning hard on Internet companies that gather information about you for targeted marketing, but so far these companies have beaten back calls for a mandatory Do Not Track list.

Shar VanBoskirk: My money is on the industry, only because so much money is tied to it.

Shar VanBoskirk is digital advertising analyst at Forrester Research.

VanBoskirk: If the industry has their ability to leverage consumer data taken away from them, that's a loss of billions of dollars.

So while we can expect a raft of new consumer privacy options in the next few months, don't expect any of them to end online tracking as we know it.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.


About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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