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Watch out, Yahoo! EFF looses BADGER on sites that ignore Do Not Track

Browser plugin nudges companies toward compliance

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

In the wake of Yahoo!'s decision to stop honoring browsers' Do Not Track signals, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a new blacklisting tool that will automatically block tracking cookies from sites that refuse to support DNT.

Dubbed Privacy Badger, the tool is available as a browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that keeps track of any third-party cookies, images, or scripts it finds embedded in the web pages you visit.

If these elements appear to be using unique identifiers to track you across multiple sites, Privacy Badger automatically blocks content from the site they came from – unless, the EFF says, the site has made a "strong commitment" to support DNT.

Yahoo! and other DNT dissenters have dropped support for the scheme because they claim they don't know what the DNT signal is supposed to mean, and that there's no "single standard" for how sites should handle it.

The EFF would like to negate that argument, and to that end it has opened discussion on a draft standard DNT compliance policy that companies could eventually use as a model for their own policies.

The document is listed as version 0.1 for now, and at more than 1,300 words long, it's not a quick read. But the EFF has given online companies an incentive to pay attention to it, even at this early stage: post a copy of the policy to your site at a specific URL where Privacy Badger can find it, and the plugin will unblock content from your domain (as long as you aren't sending tracking elements to browsers with DNT enabled).

"So users who install Privacy Badger not only get more privacy and a better browsing experience for themselves, but actually contribute to making the Web as a whole better for everyone," the EFF explained in a blog post.

The current version of Privacy Badger looks only for cookies and other tracking elements that are sent by third-party sites, but the EFF says that future versions will also examine tracking items sent by sites you actually visit.

"We are doing things in this order because the most scandalous, intrusive and objectionable form of online tracking is that conducted by companies you've often never heard of and have no relationship with," the plugin's FAQ explains – meaning the myriad networks that serve ads to and harvest data from websites.

You can download Privacy Badger from its homepage today, and if you're interested in contributing to the code, you can find the repositories on Github – somewhat ironically, because as Privacy Badger reveals, Github does not honor DNT. ®

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