The FireFox Solution to the Do-Not-Track Dilemma

Mozilla FireFox is known for being a step ahead of its competition in the seemingly endless browser wars. They’ve been the dominant browser since 2009 when they finally beat out the default choice, Microsoft Internet Explorer. FireFox made huge gains with consumers because it focused on safety and security without compromising speed.

Today they launched yet another feature before the folks at Microsoft got a chance to deliver a similar service that they’ve been hyping since December of 2010. The latest incarnation, FireFox 4, offers an alternative, yet still browser based solution to the tracking cooking issue.

Consumers have become concerned over commonplace behavioral targeting methods that advertisers use to boost sales. Not all marketing programs work the same way, but most retargeting campaigns implant tracking pixels as a way of luring consumers back to advertisers’ websites or to promote a specific product the customer expressed an interest in. Privacy advocates further question advertisers collecting data on internet users, including their locations, demographic information, and search habits. These actions are especially disconcerting when sensitive facts are sold to 3rd parties for unknown reasons. The public outcry has been loud enough to get the FTC involved; the federal organization is contemplating appropriate courses of action. Regulators have already proposed a national do not track list, and suggested that perhaps the mechanism should be accessible via the user’s browser.

FireFox 4 provides a setting option that sends out a broadcast signal to websites telling them that the user does not want to be tracked in any way. The company claims its concept is superior to that of Microsoft because the IE version is rather tedious. Instead of forcing consumers to cherry pick which sites they’re comfortable with, FireFox offers a universal opt-out. Of course, advertisers and publishers don’t have to honor the request; they might not even be able to translate the signal. The FTC would still have to step in to enforce the request, which would be quite difficult given the circumstances. Microsoft’s remedy is much friendlier from a business standpoint and would make it easier to identify violators.

Lawmakers will be deliberating the ramifications of their plans until February 17th. Since their decision will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the future of the online marketing industry, expect further updates as the situation unfolds.

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