According to a survey by IT service analysts Ovum, 68% of the Internet
users would use “do-not-track” (DNT) settings to restrict the use of
their personal data, if such a tool was “easily available”.

Websites and third-parties, such as advertisers, may record Internet
users’ behaviour in order to serve targeted, personalised ads. Such
user-specific data can be collected by several means, including the use
of cookies. The information thus stored can be passed on by operators to
advertisers for behavioural adverts, based on the users’ activity and
declared interests.

Yet, lately, consumers have become more aware of the fact that their
personal information can be used as merchandise. Ovum’s survey has shown
that only 14% of consumers believe Internet firms are honest about the
way they use their consumers’ personal data. “Unfortunately, in the gold
rush that is big data, taking the supply of ‘little data’ – personal
data – for granted seems to be an accident waiting to happen,” said Mark
Little, principal analyst at Ovum who added: “However, consumers are
being empowered with new tools and services to monitor, control, and
secure their personal data as never before, and it seems they
increasingly have the motivation to use them.”

In Little’s opinion, the Internet companies would have to change their
attitudes towards their customers. The operators should make privacy
tools available to consumers and use “a new set of messages to change
consumers’ attitudes. These messages must be based on positive direct
relationships, engagement with consumers, and the provision of genuine
and trustworthy privacy controls.” Although EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes
had previously asked for a new DNT standard to enable Internet users to
indicate their consent for the use of their personal data in a manner
that would comply with the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications
Directive, last year she indicated that she would accept a DNT
standard that would only partially meet the requirements under the
Directive. Under the EU’s amended Privacy and Electronic Communications
Directive, storing and accessing information on users’ computers is only
lawful “on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his
or her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive
information … about the purposes of the processing”.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been working on developing a new
DNT controls system which, in its opinion, should not be switched on by
default but require an explicit instruction to operate. Firefox has
already implemented it since 2011.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has developed its own DNT tool for its new
Internet Explorer 10 web browser. The DNT setting is automatically
activated and the users have to change the settings in case they wish to
let websites and advertising networks track their online activity. This
has obviously crossed advertising companies and the system does not
actually guarantee that all companies would respect it. Yahoo! for
instance, has stated that it would not “recognise IE10’s default DNT

Google introduced the DNT standard in November 2012, with the launching
of its Chrome 23, but warned that the results could be variable. “The
effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services
respond, so Google is working with others on a common way to respond to
these requests in the future,” wrote Google engineer Ami Fischman on the
company’s blog.

Most consumers would activate do-not-track privacy settings if they were
‘easily available’, according to Ovum survey (6.02.2013)

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