Report: advertisers undermining Do Not Track plans
The report also cited earlier work on how thousands of websites had installed code that causes Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to unblock cookies that the browser blocks by default.
Microsoft recently said it planned to leave Do Not Track on by default in Internet Explorer 10, but if websites don’t honour the requests then the system has limited value.
Not only are advertisers ignoring or circumventing requests not to be tracked, they are also using other technologies that are almost impossible for consumers to switch off, the report claimed.
It is foreseeable that regardless of the form Do Not Track takes, websites will simply require consumers to disable it in order to access content
“Other tracking vectors are presently difficult for consumers to avoid, because they enable server-side tracking, because they are not well known by consumers, or because privacy controls for these tools are not popularly available,” the report said. “These include device fingerprinting, HTML5 local storage, Document Object Model objects, and Silverlight cookies.”
Accept or miss out
The report also suggested that – in a similar way to how cookie laws in Europe have been watered down by sites simply announcing they drop cookies rather than get permission – companies might make accepting tracking a requirement of using their sites.
The report claims online companies could make it impossible to use their sites unless users agree to turn off “Do Not Track” requests in their browsers even if Do Not Track rules do offer any protection.
“It is foreseeable that regardless of the form Do Not Track takes, websites will simply require consumers to disable it in order to access content,” the report said.
Do consumers care?
However, the report also highlights another disparity – that between privacy concerns of consumer campaigners and consumers themselves.
Do Not Track has been covered widely in the US and elsewhere, with the The Wall Street Journal in particular running regular stories on the subject and campaigning for more controls.
However, the report showed that the message was not getting through to end users, with only 13% of survey respondents having even heard of Do Not Track.
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