Adventuresome Firefox users who can't wait to try out the "do not track" feature can do so now by grabbing a "nightly build" of the browser. Nightly builds are for testing purposes only, Mozilla warns, and aren't as stable as beta releases.
Last week, Mozilla released details about a feature it intended to add to the upcoming version of its Firefox web browser, release 4.0, that would create a universal "opt-out" for net surfers who don't want to be tracked by Internet marketers. Today, Sid Stamm announced on his "extreme geekboy" blog that the first iteration of the feature has been incorporated into the latest nightly builds of the browser.
To enable the feature, open the preference pane in the software, select the advanced tab and click the box labeled "Tell sites I do not want to be tracked."
After setting up "do not track," every time the browser makes a connection to download content, it will send a "don't track me" signal to the site. The syntax of that command has been changed slightly in this version of the feature compared to previous ones. It's now "DNT: 1". Previously, it was "X-Do-Not-Track."
Just because a browser has a "do not track" feature, though, doesn't mean a website will recognize it. "We do not anticipate that sites are looking for the signal yet, so you probably won't notice a difference as you browse the web," Stamm acknowledged.
That cooperation from both browser makers and website operators is required for "do not track" to work is seen by some as a major flaw in the system. As my colleague Tony Bradley pointed out last week:
"The problem with expecting cooperation from websites that are tracking Internet usage and gathering information on users' web habits is that most of those organizations are already aware that it is ethically questionable, and that the FTC is working to combat the practice, yet they choose to continue collecting the data anyway."