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EFF creates 'stronger' standard for Do Not Track

Privacy advocates have long been working toward a coherent Do Not Track standard, and this week a new option is being put on the table. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with companies including Medium and DuckDuckGo, have introduced a new Do Not Track standard that they claim to be "stronger" than those currently going around. The standard sticks to Do Not Track's existing tenets: it should be opt-in, and enabling it should tell websites and advertisers not to store and share information on the person visiting them. Supporting the standard is also voluntary, which is less of a choice and more of an acknowledgement that there's no legal backing that requires websites not to track anyone.

"Adoption on a per-domain basis should help DNT spread more quickly."

The EFF doesn't call out why this standard is stronger than other Do Not Track policies, but it does suggest that it's best used in conjunction with other privacy software. The groups behind this standard also hope that it'll be easier to adopt, which would also have the effect of making it stronger. To ease adoption, the new Do Not Track policy says that companies can pick and choose where to include support. That means a website could support Do Not Track on its primary domain but decline to support it while offering services to third parties. "Adoption on a per-domain basis should help DNT spread more quickly," the EFF writes.

Disconnect, AdBlock, and Mixpanel are also partners in the launch of this Do Not Track policy. "Our hope is that this new DNT approach will protect a consumer’s right to privacy and incentivize advertisers to respect user choice, paving a path that allows privacy and advertising to coexist," Casey Oppenheim, Disconnect CEO, says in a statement. Medium will also be supporting this implementation of Do Not Track, and it'll require that third-party analytics and ads do the same on its site.

Most major desktop browsers support the ability to send out a Do Not Track request. The remaining problem — aside from it being totally optional for all websites to support — is that there are no clear requirements on what a website should do when it receives that request. This new policy is a step toward solving that, but it'll need wider support before people really know what they're getting when they visit a site that says it respects Do Not Track.