But how many know about the Do Not Track option? The one that automatically tells your browser and the sites you visit to respect your privacy and not follow your every Internet step?
Well, not enough, apparently. And partly because it’s so darn difficult to achieve, thanks to the Top Dog ruling the Internet junkyard.
Google dominates the web, getting a vast majority of all search engine uses. Its latest Google Chrome browser is currently used by 25 percent of the Internet surfers worldwide, too.
But Google does not comply with “Do Not Track” requests from users that their Internet habits not be monitored. The company’s even a bit open about it, too. “You know Google policy is to get right up to the ‘creepy’ line,” Eric Schmidt, executive chair of the company, said at an Oct. 2010 forum.
And in this sarcastic animated video, you can catch a few more actual quotes from Google CEOs that indicate intentional noncompliance with privacy requests:
This Do Not Track option was created by folks with the comp sci department at Stanford Univ.
By its own description, “Do Not Track is a technology and policy proposal that enables users to opt out of tracking by websites they do not visit, including analytics services, advertising networks, and social platforms.”
In a more simplistic nutshell, though, it sends a “back off” message to every website you visit.
When you visit a website, it and the browser that brought you there can immediately keep track of other sites you visit, too. Strangely enough, that same information can be accessed by other “third party” links, such as those embedded in the ads on websites, as well. Through this tracking, the site companies and advertisers can the use the information they acquire about you to determine demographics and plan which ads you’ll see on the Internet. They can also sell that information to other companies.
Under Do Not Track, however, your visit begins with a message to that site: respect your privacy, don’t collect information, and don’t even think about giving any info on your visit to anyone else, either.
Tracking might not seem necessarily invasive to everyone, but the sites you visit, as well as any info you enter to those sites, are still a matter of privacy.
For comparison, should a television network and its advertisers be able to follow your complete viewing history, and just because you channel-surfed your way to their station? Should a newspaper be able to follow which articles you read, or record your answers to the daily crossword puzzle, and then sell that info about you and your reading habits to other newspapers?
Other Internet browsers offer their users the option, including Firefox, Internet Explorer 9 and Safari. If you make that opt-out selection, all sites you visit are given the Do Not Track alert.
Those browsers offer that service willingly, too. A Senate bill on this subject introduced in May 2011 is still in the works, but it’s still not a legal requirement.
But Google won’t offer Do Not Track, and indicates it has no intentions to. And it insinuates refusal to honor the Do Not Track requests issued by other browsers, too.
And how much of an impact can its failure to respect your wishes actually have? “Google's information monopoly extends from 70% of the search market to 95% of the mobile search market,” according to Consumer Watchdog, the nonprofit organization that advocates for consumer rights and which produced the attached video.
That means your privacy could be violated about seven times out of every ten you go online from your computer, and practically every time you surf from your smart phone.
In the meantime, if Internet privacy is important to you (and it should be), you can try other browsers and different search engines.
But before you sign off to go back online under a different browser, visit this Consumer Watchdog page. You can sign the petition on that page requesting Google compliance, and let Google directly know how you feel at the same time through their tracking.