Have you ever logged into Facebook and noticed an advertisement on the side which seemed eerily attuned to your specific interests? Recent news regarding Internet privacy issues has introduced of what is called DNT or “Do Not Track” tools in major web browsers. A DNT essentially prevents browsers from conducting tracking or accumulating information on Internet users based upon their online history, interests, searches, etc… The article outlines that browsers such as Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox and now Google’s Chrome have begun to integrate remedial versions of the tool into their respective browsers. This information remains important because of a poll that revealed that 80% internet users would like to see tracking outlawed in the future, and the author argues that the tool should be made simpler, more consumer friendly.
So why is this important exactly? There are very many implications of tracking on Internet consumers but what remains important to the issue is the fracturing of audiences and availability of content and services on the web. Tracking allows an individual’s online activity to be recorded, but it is not for some larger government surveillance project quite yet. Tracking essentially can be used to tailor the web and web browsers to specific interests and preferences. This can come in the form of search engines that know what you are looking for or it can lead to advertising of products that you personally might enjoy based upon your online activity. Facebook does this based on what you “like” and what is in your info/interests. The downside to tracking, however, is that many feel it is an invasion of one’s privacy by corporations and advertisers.
Tracking, consisting of both pros and cons, seems appealing to advertisers and frightening to consumers which I think gets at the heart of the issue. Before some larger governmental privacy mandates are put into place I believe that DNT tools should be put into all browsers so that people have the option to choose. Some might like an Internet that is tailored to their interests while others might want those eyes off their backs. Either case can happen but what matters is whether the browsers out there decide to make it simple enough for the average Internet user to figure out.