Browsers Not Protecting Your Privacy: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

A prominent security firm says browser vendors like Mozilla, Microsoft, and Google aren't doing enough to protect your privacy.

In a recent report, NSS Labs suggested that features like "Do Not Track" represent half-hearted efforts to keep users' personal data safe.

Do Not Track is designed to protect browser users' privacy by requesting that websites avoid tracking them through cookies, the small pieces of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome, and Safari currently offer some form of Do Not Track.

Feature Too Hard to Find, Enable

The most significant problem with Do Not Track, according to NSS Labs: currently, only Internet Explorer 10 is set up to enable the feature by default. The other browsers make finding and enabling Do Not Track a time-consuming and overly complex process.

NSS Labs says this is evidence that many browser vendors aren't taking the idea of protecting user privacy seriously enough.

In fact, the firm suggests that making Do Not Track difficult for non-experts to enable is evidence of each vendor's "philosophical views on consumer privacy." (Source:

Another big problem: in order for Do Not Track to work, websites have to agree to a user's request. Right now, there aren't any rules in place to ensure compliance.

NSS Labs security analysts believe the only answer to this issue is government legislation.

"Until legislation is passed that will mandate compliance with the user intent of Do Not Track, the feature will remain a polite request that will be ignored by the advertising industry," noted NSS Labs researchers Randy Abrams and Jayendra Pathak. (Source:

Chrome Receives Less-Than-Sterling Review

Because Internet Explorer 10 does enable Do Not Track by default, NSS Labs scored Microsoft's browser higher for protecting user privacy.

The security firm reserved its most scathing criticism for Google's Chrome, which forces users to go through a series of menus to find and enable the feature.

A major explanation for browser vendors' apprehension regarding Do Not Track: opposition from advertisers (represented by the Digital Advertising Alliance), who believe the feature makes targeting ads at specific users extremely difficult.

To read NSS Labs' report (via PDF), click here.

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