Apple Adds ‘Do Not Track’ Privacy Feature To New Safari Browser

In some ways, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has been fairly unresponsive when it comes to the online privacy debate. Of the four major browser companies, Apple is the only one that didn’t even file a public comment about the landmark privacy report issued last year by the Federal Trade Commission. But Apple is getting with the program, it seems, even though it’s doing so quietly.

The WSJ reports that Lion-the newest version of Apple’s Mac OS X, currently available only to developers-include the same “Do Not Track” privacy feature that’s in new version of Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Internet Explorer.

This new development leaves Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which didn’t respond to request for comment today from the WSJ, looking behind the curve in the online privacy field. That’s not good for a company just hit with unprecedented sanctions by the FTC.

In addition to a Do Not Track header, Microsoft has built a feature called Tracking Protection Lists into IE9, which can cut off some online tracking even if the trackers don’t respond to a Do Not Track signal.

The Do Not Track mechanism is an HTTP “header,” which is just a small piece of text sent to every website that an internet user visits, signalling that user doesn’t wish to be tracked across websites. There’s no legal obligation on the part of publishers or advertisers to respond to the Do Not Track signal, but some have already agreed to. No major ad network has yet announced it will honor Do Not Track, but the Digital Advertising Alliance is in discussions about how to respond, according to a recent post on Mozilla’s corporate blog.