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Mozilla plans 'Do Not Track' bottle-stopper for private surfers

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Mozilla is planning to add a so-called "do-not-track" feature to browsers for Firefox users who want to outfox cookie-bothering behavioural advertisers.

The open source browser maker's global privacy and public policy wonk Alex Fowler admitted that convincing website operators to agree to such a proposal remained a big stumbling block.

However, it's arguably helpful that Mozilla's plans are a response to the US Federal Trade Commission's recent call for development of a do-not-track system (PDF).

"As the first of many steps, we are proposing a feature that allows users to set a browser preference that will broadcast their desire to opt-out of third party, advertising-based tracking by transmitting a Do Not Track HTTP header with every click or page view in Firefox," wrote Fowler in a blog post.

"When the feature is enabled and users turn it on, web sites will be told by Firefox that a user would like to opt-out of OBA [online behavourial advertising].

"We believe the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out mechanism than cookies or blacklists."

The feature is being considered by Mozilla for future releases of its browser, but it's not clear if it will be slotted into the forthcoming Firefox 4 that is expected to arrive shortly.

Privacy tools in web browsers are increasingly on the minds of tech firms keen, a cynic would argue, to muffle the voices of those people who refuse to tolerate OBA.

In December last year, Microsoft said it would offer a privacy setting in the next version of Internet Explorer that will make it easy for users to keep their browsing habits from being tracked by advertising networks and other third-party websites.

Meanwhile, the world's largest ad broker Google is reportedly set to announce a "keep my opt-outs" privacy tool later today, that will allow its Chrome browser users to scream "in your face, OBA!" - or something. ®

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