“Do Not Track” technologies have become an increasingly standard part of the Internet today, offering users a variety of ways to protect their privacy as they surf the Web.
Yet while there are numerous anti-tracking tools out there to help users avoid being tracked--both within the leading browsers and as extra add-ons--many of them are browser-specific, confusing, or just plain difficult to use, according to a Carnegie Mellon University report from last fall.
A free new tool released on Thursday was built specifically to address many of the concerns raised in that study and to go well beyond what standard private browsing modes can do. It's called Do Not Track Plus, and it works seamlessly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari; not only that, but it can increase page load speeds by up to four times, its maker says.
580 Tracking Technologies
A beta version of Abine's Do Not Track Plus (DNT+) was released last year, initially just for Firefox, and it saw more than a million downloads, the company says.
Today's official release marks its arrival on all the major browsers, however, and blocks tracking across hundreds of websites--including Facebook and Google, whose new privacy policies have caused something of an uproar in recent weeks.
Users can decide at the individual website level whether they want to block or allow tracking. When they do want their activities to remain private, DNT+ blocks a growing list of 580 different tracking technologies and more than 200 tracking companies.
Users Can Still Share
With an easy-to-use interface, the tool aims to prevent advertisers from watching users' site visits, shopping interests, hobbies, clicks, and geographic location. It also keeps a running “block counter” in the corner of the browser window so users can easily see how many tracking attempts have been blocked, and from what companies.
Unlike most anti-tracking tools, the software lets users continue to use social-sharing buttons even as they block social tracking, Abine notes.
At least as compelling, in my view, is that Do Not Track Plus can make Web pages load as much as four times faster, according to the company.
100 Attempts per Day
The average Web user is tracked by more than 100 technologies every day, Abine says, and even those who have opted out of targeted advertising continue to be tracked, at least one study has shown.
There are other anti-tracking tools out there as well, of course. But with its latest tweaks and enhancements--not to mention the speed boost it touts--Do Not Track Plus could be worth checking out. It's now available as a free download on the Abine site.