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Yahoo backtracks on Do Not Track

Eye

By Jane McCallion

Posted on 2 May 2014 at 16:10

Yahoo has dumped support for Do Not Track, citing a lack of a single standard used across the tech industry.

Do Not Track (DNT) is an HTTP privacy setting that tells advertisers whether or not web users are happy to be tracked across websites.

By default, DNT is turned off in most browsers, with people needing to opt in to receive any protection.

However, DNT only indicates a user's preference; there's nothing forcing advertisers to stop honour it, and many advertisers simply ignore it, leading some to call its usefulness into question.

"DNT is, at best, a polite request from the browser that the host site pay no attention to them and kindly forget them once they leave," Andrew Rose, principal security and risk analyst at Forrester, told PC Pro. "Laudable as this is, the browser has zero ability to ensure that this happens."

Yahoo said: “As the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track, we’ve been at the heart of conversations surrounding the most user friendly standard. However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the wider tech industry.”

This is despite Twitter announcing it will respect DNT as recently as July 2013.

Yahoo said it believes “the best web is a personalised one” and that dropping DNT will give users a more “personalised experience”.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told PC Pro that companies such as Yahoo had "sabotaged the DNT standard" before rejecting it.

"They need to respect users’ privacy and re-establish trust that has been undermined by pervasive, permission less data collection through cookie-based tracking," he said.

Rose suggested, however, that it's up to the user to really drive change through the use of plug-ins, add-ons and alternative browsers "that utilise different techniques to obscure the identity of the browser [such as] the TOR browser and EFF's Privacy Badger".

It's still possible to opt out of tracking on Yahoo in the Privacy Policy section of its site.

If you have a Yahoo account, you can sign in to enable this setting across every computer with one click – assuming you are logged in on each computer – or alternatively you can opt out on a device-by-device basis.

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User comments

Yahoo said it believes “the best web is a personalised one”.
Disingenuous. They failed to make clear, best for who? Obviously best for Yahoo, not so obvious that their interests necessarily overlap with mine.

By martindaler on 2 May 2014

Everyone's doing it.

For this page, IE's tracking protection reports that it's blocked content from 25 services.

I'd love to see an explanation from the PCPro staff as to why they think this is necessary.

By ElectronShepherd on 4 May 2014

Probably a good thing

I think for the majority of web users tracking in this context isn't a major issue, if anything I rather they tracked me a little more, at least that way I wouldn't still see the same poxy advert 2 weeks after I've purchased the item! I also find it useful that I can simply authorise services like Google, Drop Box, etc without having to re-login to the said service on every individual site, something that I don't be is possible if do not track is implemented and probably the reason for Yahoo's backtrack.

@ElectronShepherd, I'm guessing the 25 services blocked by IE are the same 25 that my Firefox NoScript plugin has offered to block, the majority of these are appear to be either web analytic tools or Advert related services, with a few others such as YouTube plugins etc.

By Samo42 on 5 May 2014

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