Twitter jumps on Do Not Track bandwagon

And debuts new tracking system, 'tailored suggestions,' at the same time

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But if a user has enabled Do Not Track in their browser, the setting is meaningless, as Twitter has promised to "stop collecting the information that allows us to tailor Twitter based on your recent visits to websites that have integrated our buttons or widgets."

Mayer verified this.

"DNT seems to trump a Twitter personalization account preference," said Mayer, again on Twitter Thursday. "If personalization is on but DNT is enabled, there's no 'pid' cookie."

Blau didn't see a direct connection between Twitter's support for Do Not Track and the launch of tailored suggestions. "For the news yesterday, sure, [Do Not Track] might have softened any criticism of tailored suggestions, but in the long run, it doesn't matter," said Blau.

"There's a natural tension between technology providers who want to provide value based on tracking, and consumers perceptions of privacy," Blau added. "Over time, technology companies have to figure out where that balance is."

In other Do Not Track news, Mozilla's Fowler said that nearly 9% of desktop Firefox users have enabled the feature, and 19% of mobile Firefox users -- Mozilla distributed a mobile version for Android smartphones -- have done the same.

Those low numbers -- particularly on the desktop -- match Blau's estimates for the percentage of users who have, for example, bothered to set privacy controls on their Facebook accounts.

"The perception in the media and among consumers is that technology sites are exploiting our data," said Blau. "But even though consumers say they're concerned, they don't do anything about it."

The contradiction is changing, although slowly.

"Today the 5%-6% number of people who have manipulated Facebook privacy controls is higher, ever since the FTC came down on Facebook at the end of 2011, so people are changing," said Blau. "They're starting to recognize what they're saying about privacy is not what they've been doing about it."

Twitter has posted instructions for Firefox, IE9 and Safari users who want to enable Do Not Track in those browsers.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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