Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Firefox won't activate DNT by default

Firefox isn't gonna turn on DNT by default because then DNT won't work.
"As Do Not Track picks up steam and standardization is well underway in the W3C, people have begun asking, "If Do Not Track is so good for the web, why don't you turn it on by default?"
"Frankly, it becomes meaningless if we enable it by default for all our users. Do Not Track is intended to express an individual's choice, or preference, to not be tracked. It's important that the signal represents a choice made by the person behind the keyboard and not the software maker, because ultimately it's not Firefox being tracked, it's the user. "

Sure, we could run a few engagement campaigns to inform people about the option, but we won't make that decision for our users.

Edit (9-Nov-2011 @ 11:24): 

There are three different signals to consider in broadcasting the user's preferences for tracking:

1. User says they accept tracking
2. User says they reject tracking
3. User hasn't chosen anything

We're defaulting to state 3: we don't know what the user wants, so we're not sending any signals to servers.  The signal being sent should be the user's choice, not ours, so we don't broadcast anything until they've chosen what to send.


Ben Hearsum said...

Isn't leaving it disabled by default also making a choice on behalf of users?

Anonymous said...

What about prompting for it at install time, or first run?

Sid Stamm said...

No, it's not. We should probably clear this up in the post.

There are three states:
1. User says they accept tracking
2. User says they reject tracking
3. User doesn't say anything

We're going with option 3: we don't know what the user wants, so we're not sending any signals to servers. The alternative (turn it on by default) is choosing 1 for all users. We won't do that because we can't know if it's accurate.

Sid Stamm said...

sorry, previous comment was in reply to Ben Hearsum.

@Anonymous/11:19am: we could, and we're discussing it, but there are all sorts of other settings we could ask about too. I hate to stuff too much into first-run opportunities, but that's ultimately a UX decision.

Erunno said...

It's also a far more powerful message to site operators (and maybe even legislators) if they know that each time a server receives a DNT header it's due to the user making a conscious choice. If its turned on by default it can be more easily disregarded because, as Sid explained, it may or may not be the user's choice.

Unknown said...

I still wonder if adding a first-run prompt might not signal ever better what users want. The way things are now, "User doesn't say anything" typically means "User doesn't know there is an option".

Anonymous said...

If it's a three-state option, why is it represented as a (two-state) checkbox in the options UI? Shouldn't it be some sort of dropdown that defaults to "no decision" and has "yes" and "no" options? As it stands, you have no way of distinguishing between users who have chosen to be tracked and users who haven't chosen.

Jake said...

I think that not setting it as default is best - if we did, I think it would really make ad companies follow it less often.