Fact #1: Firefox is my preferred web browser. Fact #2: I have written a few articles chronicling the government’s and web browser’s efforts to provide Internet users with a Do Not Track option. Fact #3: I had to consult Firefox’s support page to learn how to enable the “Do Not Track” feature.
Stupid, Lazy or Unintuitive?
You can insinuate what you want from that last one, but to me, a skilled troubleshooter, it says that Firefox’s “Do Not Track” feature isn’t as intuitive as I would have thought. I’d be more inclined to choose “private browsing” from the Tools menu than I would to open up Preferences and start sleuthing around. (Yes, I work on a Mac).
I could be an anomaly, but I am not. According to Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank, less than 1% of users of Firefox 4 are adopting the “Do Not Track” option. Is it because consumers don’t care about having their information tracked? Or is it because it’s not easy for them to enable the feature? Marketers and consumer advocates alike are watching closely because Firefox 4 is the first web browser to send a Do Not Track signal to websites based on user requests. How users engage with it could set a precedent, which could influence the way advertisers collect information and how the government decides to regulate it.
Do Not Track = Cannot Find
An educated consumer may not make smarter decisions, but at least the decisions they make are done with a fuller knowledge and understanding of the way things work. Simply adding a “Do Not Track” feature doesn’t mean that you’ve educated your users. As well, don’t assume that your users will take the initiative to find the information they want, especially if they don’t know about it in the first place. Firefox and other browsers like it need to heed the same advice given to web designers and information architects: Don't put barriers in the way of users.
Conversely, consumers are much less likely to feel trapped or spied upon, if they know they have an option to not participate. Yet, it’s not an option if you don’t know about it.
Even Savvy Users Need Direction
In 2007, comScore reported that the average Firefox user was younger and more educated than the average Internet Explorer user. Since then, Firefox has emerged as a frontrunner in the browser wars -- Firefox 4 was downloaded 7.1 million times during the first day of availability alone (comparatively, Internet Explorer 9 only netted 2.5 million downloads during its first 24 hours). Although Firefox users may actively choose to use it (rather than using the default browser installed), it’s unwise to assume that all its users are up-to-date on the ins and outs of the FTC’s Do Not Track initiative.
We will no doubt continue to track Firefox, Google and Safari’s Do Not Tracking initiatives to see how, and if, users are employing them. Ironically, it may be that all Do Not Track needs is a better marketing strategy.