Don Marti

Sun 29 Jul 2012 07:54:32 AM PDT

Third-party tracking enabled here (or not)

As I've been saying for a while, we have a problem in how we talk about third-party tracking on the web.

When you're on Site A, and the browser tells Site B about it without your knowledge, that's a bug in the browser. Unexpected behavior. Unfortunately, too often, we make Site B the subject of the sentence. "Site B is tracking users! How can we regulate sites to keep them from doing this?"

This is dangerous. If we pursue the approach of regulating all the site Bs out there, we'll end up with a situation in which sites with sufficient lobbyists and lawyers will be able to track you, and others won't. And it's the sites with the lobbyists and lawyers you're probably worried about.

The safer approach is to rethink how browsers handle third-party content. I'm running RequestPolicy, which is great, and secure, and all, but requires some work to approve third-party domains. On the first visit to a new site, I have to pick out the sneaky trackers from the harmless CDNs.

Microsoft's Tracking Protection for Internet Explorer is also promising, since it lets users share lists of sites to block and approve.

Anyway, if you see some third-party web site logos below this post, your browser has betrayed you, and it might be a good idea to file a bug or look at privacy extensions.