What is 'Do Not Track' And How do I Use It?

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Have you ever searched for a product on Amazon or some other site and then visited another site and noticed that by some strange coincidence, the exact item you were searching for is being advertised on a completely different site as if they somehow read your mind and knew that you might be looking for it?

It’s a creepy feeling because deep down you know that it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. You suddenly realize that advertisers are tracking you from site to site and tailoring the ads they present to you, based on what you searched for on other sites, and by using other information they gathered directly from you or by analyzing your behavioral data.

Online behavior advertising is big business and it’s supported by tracking mechanisms such as cookies and other methods.

Much like there is a Do Not Call Registry for telemarketers, consumer privacy advocacy groups have proposed ‘Do Not Track’ as a privacy preference that consumers should be allowed to set at their browser level so that they can mark themselves as unwilling to be tracked and targeted by online marketers and others.

'Do Not Track' is a simple setting that started becoming available in most modern web browsers in 2010. This setting is an http header field that is presented by a user’s web browser to sites they browse on the Internet. The DNT header communicates to web servers that a user visits one of three of the following values:

  • Value 1 – The user does not want to be tracked (opt out)
  • Value 2 – The user consents to being tracked (opt in)
  • Null Value – The value is for tracking has not been set by the user

    There is currently no law that mandates advertisers have to abide by the user’s wishes, but sites may choose to honor the user’s wishes of not tracking them based on the value set in this field. You can research to see what sites honor 'Do Not Track' by reviewing the specific site’s privacy or their specific 'Do Not Track' policy.

    To Set Your 'Do Not Track' Preference Value:

    In Mozilla Firefox:

    1. Click on the “Tools” menu or click the Menu icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
    2. Choose “Options” or click the “Options” gear icon.
    3. Select the “Privacy” menu tab from the Options pop-up window.
    4. Locate the tracking section at the top of the screen and select the option “Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked”.
    5. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the Options pop-up window.

    In Google Chrome:

    1. In the top right-hand corner of the browser, click on the chrome menu icon.
    2. Choose “Settings”.
    3. Click on “Show advanced settings" from the bottom of the page.
    4. Locate the “Privacy” section and enable “Do Not Track”.

    In Internet Explorer:

    1. Click on the “Tools” menu or click the tool icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
    2. Click the “Internet Options” menu selection (located near the bottom of the drop-down menu”.
    3. Click the “Advanced” menu tab in the top right-hand corner of the pop-up menu.
    4. In the settings menu, scroll down to the “Security” section.
    5. Check the box that says “Send Do Not Track requests to sites you visit in Internet Explorer.

    In Apple Safari:

    1. From the Safari drop-down menu, select "Preferences".
    2. Click on “Privacy”.
    1. Click the check box with the label “Ask websites not to track me”.