Yahoo! announced that as of May 2, 2014, the company takes away its browser’s “Do Not Track” (DNT) privacy tool, and is no longer available to internet users. Added in 2012, the privacy settings option was put in place so users working off their site could choose whether or not their internet data would be tracked. However, this is no longer an option for those using Yahoo! as their main portal to the internet. In fact, Yahoo! released that the company will continue to track each and every user, regardless of one’s privacy settings.
Most internet corporations, such as Google, Yahoo!, as well as other major companies, already automatically track a user’s online behavior in order to retain the vast amounts of data needed for advertising purposes. This is also used for creating tailored search results. Because of these reasons, companies have taken away user privacy tools, with almost every incoming DNT request being subsequently ignored.
Since 2011, most internet browsers have begun to allow users to take advantage of DNT, but there is no legal requirement for sites to follow through and honor any request sent in by users. According to Do Not Track’s website, Stanford University’s school of law researchers Jonathan Mayer and Arvin Narayanan of the Center for Internet and Society stated that even though some third-party companies have decided to honor DNT, too many more have yet to do so. It would be a matter of instituting laws which require companies to adhere to these requests.
In March of 2012, Yahoo! ironically boasted that it was the “first major tech company” to honor the DNT feature, but recently removed the feature, stating that they have not seen a universal standard released that is simple to use, effective, and has been used by the overall “broader tech industry.” However, many web researchers, privacy advocacy groups, as well as certain technology companies posed a universal option years ago, which would allow users to opt out of data tracking. The company takes away the privacy tool, but explains that users can still manually work privacy settings through their site’s Privacy Center.
This move by Yahoo! has irritated many users, who are in favor of the “Do Not Track” feature, with many groups demanding appropriate change. In turn, a large majority of online users find Yahoo!’s policy bizarre, especially confused by the company’s statement: “We fundamentally believe the best web is a personalized one.” Yet, the company thinks that by taking away the privacy tool, a user’s online experience will improve. In reality, the case has been the complete opposite.
The fact that Yahoo! takes the 2012 “Do Not Track” privacy tool away suggests that they do not truly value user privacy, making privacy options difficult to access on their website. Despite this being the normal trend with huge technology companies, advocacy groups and companies such as Duck Duck Go continue to find ways of making DNT and other online privacy tools easily acceptable to individuals using the web.
Opinion by Scott Gaudinier