“As of today, web browser Do Not Track settings will no longer be enabled on Yahoo,” a company blog said. “As the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track, we’ve been at the heart of conversations surrounding how to develop the most user-friendly standard. However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.”
When users click the Do Not Track setting in their browser, an HTTP header is sent to websites to state the user’s preference not to be tracked.
"While some third parties have committed to honor Do Not Track, many more have not,” the project website states. “In February 2012, the major online advertising trade groups pledged at the White House to support Do Not Track by year-end; that promise remains unfulfilled. Efforts to standardize Do Not Track in the World Wide Web Consortium have resulted in deadlock, despite frequent urging by American and European policymakers.”
Yahoo also refused to honor Do Not Track signals from Internet Explorer 10 in late 2012 because Microsoft decided to turn it on by default instead of asking users to make the choice.
Yahoo noted yesterday that “users can still manage their privacy on Yahoo while benefiting from a personalized web experience. We encourage our users to tailor their online experience through the variety of privacy tools we offer within our own platform, accessible via our Yahoo Privacy Center.”
In any case, it appears Do Not Track may be headed for the same fate as a similar project that predated it: the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project, or P3P.
Last September, an advertising industry group pulled out of the World Wide Web Consortium’s tracking protection working group because it was “[d]issatisfied with the failed, two-and-a-half-year-old process to establish a universal Do Not Track standard,” Adweek reported at the time.
Yahoo isn't an outlier here. Although Google's Chrome browser can send Do Not Track requests, a Google Do Not Track page that hasn't been updated since October 2012 says, "At this time, most web services, including Google's, do not alter their behavior or change their services upon receiving Do Not Track requests." The list of companies adhering to Do not Track is a short one, although some big names like Twitter and Pinterest are on there.
"Yahoo has great incentive to ditch DNT," Search Engine Land wrote. "For one, its share of the growing display pie is shrinking—the company reported display revenue of $553 million in Q4, a 6 percent decline from the previous year. And two, their competitors aren’t adhering to it either."
This probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Lorrie Faith Cranor, who led development of P3P more than a decade ago, told Ars in 2012 that “every time we come up with a technical solution that protects privacy, the websites come up with something they want to do that is broken by this privacy protection.”