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How do you dramatically increase the number of people using a privacy feature in just a few months? Apparently, just by putting it somewhere…

Online Security - privacy
photo: Tetra Images / Corbis

How do you dramatically increase the number of people using a privacy feature in just a few months? Apparently, just by putting it somewhere they can find it. A new study shows that more than 6 percent of users of the newest version of Firefox are now selecting the “Do Not Track” privacy option, probably because it’s much easier to find than on the previous version.

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser, was the first browser company to install a “Do Not Track” option in its software. Just a few months ago, the company’s privacy chief said that of the 160 million people using Firefox, the rate of Do Not Track (DNT) users was between 1 and 2 percent.

The new study, by Krux Digital, measured the privacy options of more than 100 million Firefox users worldwide, and found that usage of DNT in the new version of Firefox has increased to more than 6% of the user-base.

Firefox 5 was launched in mid-June, less than two months ago; the Krux Digital data shows that almost 60% of Firefox users are on the newest version. Of all Firefox users-that is, users of Firefox versions 3, 4, and 5 combined-about 4% are using the Do Not Track option.

The likely reason for the big jump in usage is that Mozilla made the option much easier to find in the newest version. It’s right at the top of the “Privacy” tab in the browser’s “Options” area. In FIrefox 4, the option was tucked away in the “Advanced” section.

“The more discoverable these kinds of controls become in browsers, the more we can expect people to start setting DNT headers,” said Krux Digital CEO and co-founder Tom Chavez, discussing the results in an interview with paidContent.

The data suggests that the number of consumers who want to avoid online tracking and ad targeting, while perhaps still not large, is not inconsequential. Anyone hoping for a usage rate in the 1 percent range may be hoping for too much.

Still, the rising DNT trend doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for digital marketers and publishers who rely on tracking, Chavez noted. “My own view is that DNT will likely mimic what we saw previously with cookie deletion. It will surge, scare the pants off everybody in digital media, and then settle down into a predictable, not-so-alarming rate.”

Krux acquired its dataset by taking note of the DNT options of millions of users visiting the websites of more than 20 media companies it works with in the U.S. and E.U., to provide data analysis services.

When a Firefox user selects the “Do Not Track” option, the browser sends out a DNT “header”-a sort of electronic beacon-from a consumer’s web browser to every website he or she visits. However, there’s no legal or regulatory framework that requires publishers or advertisers to take any action in response to a DNT header, and at this point most still are not responding to it.

In addition to Mozilla, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) both have put Do Not Track options in their browsers.

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  1. Thanks! I was meaning to do it and didn’t get around to it.

  2. Working as a developer in an ad network I’m very interested in implementing this. However, said ad network doesn’t currently provide an opt-out mechanism. What arguments do you think I should use when I take this to management to convince them that a DNT opt-out is something they want?

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