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Anti-tracking initiative gets US government support

Anti-tracking initiative gets US government support

作者:皮涨觫  时间:2019-03-07 04:17:00  人气:

By Jim Giles A simple but powerful way to protect users’ privacy on the web is attracting growing support from companies and privacy advocates. The system, known as Do Not Track, received a vote of confidence today from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the US government agency responsible for protecting consumers. The commission said that it wants companies that track our movements across the web, such as advertising firms, to use Do Not Track to give consumers an easy way to opt out of such monitoring. “Online advertisers are tracking people with an astonishing array of methods,” says Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group based in San Francisco. “The Do Not Track proposal is a response to this predicament.” The FTC gave few details of its preferred anti-tracking mechanism, but what it did say fits with a system developed by computer scientists at Stanford University. The Stanford team wants Apple, Microsoft and other browser developers to incorporate a special “header” option into their software. Headers are snippets of information that browsers send to websites. The Do Not Track header, if activated, would be a message instructing the website not to record the user’s visit. Proposals of this type already have the support of privacy advocates and some companies that engage in tracking. Legislators in the House of Representatives Subcommitee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection are also considering taking action. They will discuss possible anti-tracking legislation tomorrow and could provide solid support for such a bill. “This is the most bipartisan of issues,” says Jon Leibowitz, FTC chairman. Advertisers are expected to push back, however. The industry uses tracking technology to learn about internet users’ interests and to target ads accordingly. Someone who visited the Ford website might, for example, be seen as interested in purchasing a new car and then be shown adverts from car manufacturers. A coalition of advertising companies recently created a website — www.aboutads.info — that allows consumers to opt out of tracking technologies. The site has been criticised for not covering all the sites that track consumers and for relying on an anti-tracking mechanism that is less reliable than the header-based system. Recent reports in the Wall Street Journal have also alleged that advertising executives have pressured browser developers into limiting anti-tracking systems. Even if it Congress decides to legislate on Do Not Track, the success of the initiative is not certain, since consumers would would have no way of knowing whether a website had honoured their no-tracking request. Leibowitz says that he wants to get feedback on the proposals before considering how best to enforce the system: