Techworld

Twitter jumps on Do Not Track bandwagon

And debuts new tracking system, 'tailored suggestions,' at the same time

True privacy can be hard to come by in the socially enabled online world, but Twitter on Thursday announced that it has joined Firefox maker Mozilla in taking a big step forward for users.

Specifically, the popular microblogging site has signed onto enabling Firefox's Do Not Track feature, making it possible for Firefox users on Twitter to opt out of third-party tracking cookies used for advertising and other purposes.

"The Federal Trade Commission's CTO, Ed Felten, just mentioned Twitter now supports Do Not Track," read the tweet from Twitter's official account. "We applaud the FTC's leadership on DNT."

Survey Says

It was at a New York Internet Week privacy panel hosted by Mozilla that Felten announced Twitter's move, and Mozilla later offered further detail on the news.

"We're excited that Twitter now supports Do Not Track," wrote Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy for Mozilla, in a blog post Friday.

Fowler also went on to share some interesting usage statistics about the Do Not Track technology it pioneered early last year.

Namely, Do Not Track has been adopted by 8.6% of desktop Firefox users and 19% of Firefox users on the mobile side, he said, with the highest adoption rates in the Netherlands, France, and the U.S.

Among the results of a recent survey of more than 10,000 Firefox users from 140 countries, meanwhile, is that 49% of those surveyed believe their privacy is respected more when Do Not Track is enabled, as opposed to only 12% who feel that way without the setting, Fowler pointed out.

Moreover, "the survey found users' trust increases for browsers, publishers, and advertisers who support Do Not Track," he added.

A New Trend?

Even as social networking site Facebook has built an empire on aggressively tracking users' behavior, governments and privacy advocates have increasingly called for regulation.

There are also a raft of third-party tools that have emerged to help answer that call.

Of course, it's currently still up to websites to decide whether or not to honor Web surfers' Do Not Track preferences; Mozilla, in fact, has published a guide to help convince them that they should.

Twitter's move, however, is a giant step in the right direction, and it's especially encouraging given the way the company recently resisted a subpoena to release a user's data without warrant.

Is this the beginning of a new trend toward protecting users? I sure hope so. Meanwhile, as a longtime Firefox user, I'm feeling better about Twitter than ever.

Read more about internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.

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