Digital rights organization EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is tackling advertisers that track people’s web activities after it launched an extension for Google’s Chrome browser which blocks out unscrupulous online advertising techniques.
The alpha version of Privacy Badger, as the extension is called, was released today. While EFF says it has a few bugs to iron out, the software essentially sits quietly in your browser monitoring third parties that interact with you while you view websites.
“If a third-party server appears to be tracking you without permission, by using uniquely identifying cookies to collect a record of the pages you visit across multiple sites, Privacy Badger will automatically disallow content from that third-party tracker,” the organization explains.
EFF points out that there are some cases where it will allow connections, such as when doing otherwise would affect the functionality of a Web page, but it will screen out tracking codes to offer protection.
The organization says that third-party domains can join the unblock list for Privacy Badger if they make “a strong commitment to respect Do Not Track (DNT) requests”. Do Not Track is a browser privacy standard that allows users to opt out of having their Internet whereabouts known, meaning advertisers can’t follow your activity across multiple sites. The standard is optional for advertisers and domain hosts, rather than compulsory.
The advertising industry often argues that tracking users can help develop a more personalized ‘pitch,’ but there are some issues with the technology. For one, it has the capacity to be misused — Google kopped a record $22.5 million fine for overriding privacy setting in Apple’s Safari browser — while NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden advises Internet users to opt for DNT, among other things, to help safeguard their privacy.
The technology does have its issues, however, one of which is conflicting standards. Yahoo citied the lack of commonality around the policy this week as it reversed its stance on DNT. Originally one of the first companies to embrace it, Yahoo says it will no longer recognize DNT across its websites.
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