This week, micro-blogging site Twitter announced support for Mozilla’s “Do Not Track (DNT)” feature. DNT, available to Firefox users (other major browsers such as Safari and IE offer similar capabilities), gives web-surfers the chance to opt out of sharing cookies with participating sites. Frequently, these cookies are shared with advertisers, who use the information to target specific demographics, based on their web history. For instance, there’s a Royal Caribbean advert atop my Gmail inbox, likely as a result of email correspondence about my upcoming vacation. They’re also used to customize browsing online, based on your cached preferences – hence why weather.com generally knows where I am before I even have to search the site.
While the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t officially decided whether or not it’s supporting DTC, it did have some nice things to say about Twitter’s decision:
“Twitter’s use of ‘Do Not Track’ in its new feature is good news for Twitter users and a meaningful step toward broader adoption of a strong ‘Do Not Track’ system that will give consumers simple, comprehensive control over online tracking,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Hopefully other companies will follow suit.”
Twitter was quick to praise the FTC’s comments.
“We applaud the FTC’s leadership on ‘Do Not Track,’ and are excited to provide the benefits of ‘Do Not Track,'” Robert Weeks, a Twitter spokesman, told CNN (via CNN).
No surprise that this announcement is making waves across the internet, given that Twitter is moving against other online moguls such as Facebook and (somewhat less so) Google, who are more renowned for ruffling more than a few feathers with privacy updates.
Mashable points out that there’s a trade-off when it comes to DNT:
Do you prefer ease of use and customized user suggestions or more anonymity from web services? According to Mozilla, 8.6% of desktop Firefox users and 19% of mobile users are choosing the latter, with nearly half of those users reporting they feel more safe surfing the Internet with Do Not Track enabled.
In Twitter’s case, the article continues, it’s looking like DNT will only affect the suggested accounts to follow. Given that I never really understand the site’s recommendations, I wasted no time in opting in for a small slice of web privacy.
Thoughts on Twitter’s support for Do Not Track? Is it much of a change? Do you care? Give us a shout in the comments.