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Cookies. Those software namesakes of the sugar-charged morsels are central to the growing Do Not Track (DNT) movement, and now Ensighten has released a free Web tool to help publishers follow and disable the tags that use cookies.

The tool, called Ensighten PrivacyDNT, is touted as a simple way for website owners to identify third-party tags on their sites, and to categorize the tags based on vendor policies. PrivacyDNT, now in beta with a general release next month, can also re-categorize tags into lists of “block for DNT” or “never block,” and, for those visitors who have enabled a browser function for DNT, the tool can keep specific tags from being activated during a session.

DNT Standards

Des Cahill, vice president of marketing at Ensighten, said in a statement that many Web publishers are growing concerned about the European Union (EU) Privacy Directive and the emerging standard in the U.S. He added that PrivacyDNT allows publishers to “easily identify, categorize and monitor the tags on their site -- and be assured of conformance with developing Do Not Track standards.”

By May 26, multinational and United Kingdom-based companies have to comply with the EU Privacy Directive, and best practices for U.S. websites, endorsed by industry associations and government, are scheduled for 2013.

The tags in question are widespread, and used in online advertising, marketing and website analytics. Nearly two years ago, the Wall Street Journal conducted a study showing that tracking technology, which includes the tags, was present in 80% of the top 1,000 websites, and the trend has been increasing since then.

Exchanges, Shopping Carts

The study also found that each of the top 50 sites installed, on average, dozens of pieces of tracking technology on visitors’ computers. It also found that cookies are being supplemented by real-time scanning tools that can assess location, income, shopping interests and, in some cases, medical conditions.

Based on this data, profiles of users are being generated, and then sold and exchanged throughout the advertising industry, including sale through emerging stock market-like exchanges.

Learning Opportunities

But cookies and the related tags also have functions that visitors enjoy, including shopping carts or personalized presentation of information and ads. 

Categorization From PrivacyChoice

Ensighten said that PrivacyDNT is intended to give publishers control over third-party tags on their site, as privacy compliance becomes an increasingly complex requirement.

The tool requires one JavaScript line per Webpage, and it covers all tags on a given site. As privacy standards evolve, PrivacyDNT relies on categorization information from consumer e-privacy organization PrivacyChoice.

There is also a dashboard for receiving updates about the emerging DNT standard, for modifying tag blocking and for email alerts.

Ensighten, based in Cupertino, Calif., offers enterprise-class tag management, and its products include Ensighten Manage for tag management, Ensighten Privacy for controlling the flow of tag-related data, Ensighten Mobile for updating mobile tags on iOS or Android and Ensighten Flash for tag management in Adobe Flash.