AfterDawn: Glossary

Do Not Track

Do Not Track, or DNT, is a browser feature and policy framework for protecting Internet users from pervasive online web tracking.

Online tracking companies can monitor a great deal about a user's behaviour as they navigate through the Internet. This can include searches, reading habits or clicks.

Such tracking is made possible at the most basic level through the use of web cookies, and more advanced levels through the use of newer web technologies. Many websites (like AfterDawn) use web cookies for legitimate services, such as keeping a user logged in even if they close their browser and come back later.

Online tracking companies use so called "supercookies" to track user behaviour, and can use the unique user ID given to a user from a website (such as a social networking site) to tie an individual to browsing habits.

The technology behind the "Do Not Track" solution is simple; it merely adds a machine-readable header to HTTP requests that indicates a user has opted to not be tracked.

On the policy side, there are proposals for the role of regulators around the world to implement rules for web services. If a user does in fact enable DNT on their web browser, what should the web service they are connected to be obliged to do? This area is one of strong debate, as it needs to strike a balance between protecting Internet users from tracking practices, while also not stifling innovation in the space.

Microsoft put a lot of web services on alert in 2012 when it announced that Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8 would enable DNT by default. This prompted some web services, such as Yahoo, to announce they will not recognize the default DNT setting.



Select a term to see the explanation