US President Barack Obama has today unveiled a new framework for online privacy intended to ameliorate persistent concerns about the way web companies use their customers' personal data. This blueprint has been given the highfalutin title of a Privacy Bill of Rights and one of its first achievements has been to get the biggest online advertisers to accede to respect do-not-track instructions sent by their users. AOL, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all joined in on this voluntarily, promising to give you the option of not having your browsing tracked, which is a technique commonly used for delivering targeted ads. There are multiple methods for signalling your non-consent to being tracked, and though a specific one isn't explicitly laid out, the White House statement makes it clear that advertisers are committed to working with the technology and respecting users' wishes.
The do-not-track agreement is part of a broader set of principles laid out in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which are as a whole intended to give people more control of their information online and a greater sense of certainty when interacting with web services. The core tenets are transparency, so that you know what data is being kept about you and where, access to that data so that you may correct it, context awareness so that it's used for the intent with which you provided it, and of course, security. Ultimately, the Obama administration will look to enshrine these guidelines into law — we're told that it's already working with Congress to develop legislation for just that purpose — but until then the companies that sign up will be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.