When you turn on the setting in your browser that says “Do Not Track”, you probably expect to no longer be tracked on most websites you visit. Right? Well, you would be wrong. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Our recent study on the Do Not Track (DNT) browser setting indicated that about a quarter of people have turned on this setting, and most were unaware big sites do not respect it. That means approximately 75 million Americans, 115 million citizens of the European Union, and many more people worldwide are, right now, broadcasting a DNT signal.
All of these people are actively asking the sites they visit to not track them. Unfortunately, no law requires websites to respect your Do Not Track signals, and the vast majority of sites, including most all of the big tech companies, sadly choose to simply ignore them.
Let’s change that now. Let’s put teeth behind this widely used browser setting by making a law that would align with current consumer expectations and empower people to more easily regain control of their online privacy.
While DuckDuckGo actively supports the passing of strong, comprehensive privacy laws, we also recognize that it will take time for them to take effect worldwide. In the meantime, governments can provide immediate relief by enacting separate, simpler Do Not Track legislation.
It is extremely rare to have such an exciting legislative opportunity like this, where the hardest work — coordinated mainstream technical implementation and widespread consumer adoption — is already done.
That’s why we’re announcing draft legislation that can serve as a starting point for legislators in America and beyond. It’s entitled the “Do-Not-Track Act of 2019” and, if it were to be enacted, would require sites to respect the Do Not Track browser setting in this manner:
- No third-party tracking by default. Data brokers would no longer be legally able to use hidden trackers to slurp up your personal information from the sites you visit. And the companies that deploy the most trackers across the web — led by Google, Facebook, and Twitter — would no longer be able to collect and use your browsing history without your permission.
- No first-party tracking outside what the user expects. For example, if you use Whatsapp, its parent company (Facebook) wouldn’t be able to use your data from Whatsapp in unrelated situations (like for advertising on Instagram, also owned by Facebook). As another example, if you go to a weather site, it could give you the local forecast, but not share or sell your location history.
Under this proposed law, these restrictions would only come into play if a consumer has turned on the Do Not Track setting in their browser settings. To keep the Internet flowing without hiccups, these restrictions would have exceptions for debugging, auditing, security, non-commercial research, and journalism.
However, each of these exceptions would only apply if a site adopts strict data-minimization practices, such as using the least amount of personal information needed, and anonymizing it when possible. Importantly, this draft legislation takes a more realistic view of what constitutes anonymous data vs. de-identified data. Legislators need to appreciate that users can be re-identified unless companies implement extra measures of protection.
We hope the Do-Not-Track Act of 2019 serves as a useful guide to start thinking seriously about this amazing legislative opportunity. We further hope that it can close the loophole of Do Not Track and immediately help hundreds of millions of people already using this widely deployed browser setting.