Firefox browser to get 'Do Not Track' signal

SAN FRANCISCO, January 24, 2011 (AFP) - Mozilla proposed Monday adding a signal to its popular Firefox Web browsing software to let users automatically ask websites not to track their online activities.

Websites would then decide whether to grant the desire or continue to gather data for purposes such as targeting Internet advertising.

Firefox users would be able to broadcast that they want to opt-out of third party, advertising-based tracking by setting browsers to transmit a "Do Not Track HTTP header" with every click or page view.

"The challenge with adding this to the header is that it requires both browsers and sites to implement it to be fully effective," Mozilla technology and privacy officer Alex Fowler acknowledged in a blog post.

"Mozilla recognizes the chicken and egg problem and we are taking the step of proposing that this feature be considered for upcoming releases of Firefox."

Microsoft plans to increase privacy options in the upcoming version of its popular Web browser Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), including the ability to prevent tracking by third-party websites.

The US software giant said that the new feature, "Tracking Protection," is designed to "help consumers be in control of potential online tracking as they move around the Web."

The tool will be built into a test version of IE9 being released this year.

IE9 users will have to be savvy enough to create lists of third-party websites that they do not want to track their behavior.

Talk of Web browser privacy enhancements comes amid moves in Washington to create "Do Not Track" mechanisms in browsers to stop online services from collecting Web surfing or ad-targeting data.

Internet Explorer is the most widely used Web browser in the United States followed by Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.

"Technology that supports something like a 'Do Not Track' button is needed," Mozilla chief executive Gary Kovacs told AFP during a recent visit to Mozilla's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

"The user needs to be in control."

Firefox debuted in 2004 as an innovative, communally crafted open-source browser released as an option to Internet Explorer.