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'Do Not Track' is a Bust, So EFF Debuts 'Privacy Badger'

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

"Do Not Track" could've been something major. The DNT standard was introduced as an option that could be toggled by users to tell websites to, you guessed it, stop tracking them with cookies and scripts. Without the option enabled, many sites use these methods to track which sites you visit. (This is why when you look up an item online, but don't actually purchase it, it'll show up in ads on other sites for weeks thereafter.)

Tracking is annoying, invasive, and a threat to your privacy, especially if you share your computer with others.

Mozilla was the first to introduce DNT as an option, but Microsoft leapt ahead with Internet Explorer 10, enabling DNT by default. Once they did, advertising companies refused to comply, since users didn't choose to not be stalked. DNT, now, is basically neutered. Recognizing this fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the guardians of digital civil liberties and privacy, introduced a new tool: the Privacy Badger.

What is a Privacy Badger?

Privacy Badger is an extension for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox that automatically detects and blocks tracking cookies and scripts. If your favorite website starts tweaking out because PB is blocking something, you can either disable it for a site entirely, or enable script-by-script until the site works again.

Basically, it's DNT with bite, as sites can't choose to ignore it.

A fair warning, however: Privacy Badger is still in Alpha stage, which means it's an Internet infant. (It was born last night, in fact.) If you're going to use it, know that it may be buggy while it's being publicly tested. A look at the current issues page shows that it isn't playing nice with Instapaper, for example.

Still, if you're feeling adventurous, it's worth the install, especially since it has an easy on/off switch.

Why Will You Need a Privacy Badger?

Mozilla's fun Web We Want asks users to pick their most important issue for the future of the Internet, from privacy to accessibility to freedom. In every region of the globe, the top issue that concerns users is privacy.

Now, we all know about government spying, which seems like it'll be on the decline, now that (a) we all know about it and (b) politicians know that we know, but private data mining is just as invasive, if not more so, since there is no constitutional right to not have a tech company stalk you, and because we too often consent to such tracking in order to use an online dating site or a social network.

Yahoo, earlier this week, announced that it would not recognize Do Not Track. Yahoo may be one of the biggest companies to make such a proclamation, but it's far from the only one. A 'Privacy Badger' or some other equivalent tool puts you in control and makes companies' compliance not optional.

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