Less Than 1 Percent of Firefox Users Using ‘Do Not Track’ Option

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Is it because it’s tucked away in an “advanced” menu that users don’t know about? Or is it because most users simply aren’t that bothered by targeted advertising? Whatever the reason, less than 1 percent of users of Firefox 4 are adopting the “Do Not Track” option, according to Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank. Firefox 4 is the first web browser to send a Do Not Track signal to websites based on users’ requests.

The 1 percent number is based on information Polonetsky gleaned from two ad networks, which he wasn’t authorized to name. No major ad networks are doing anything to respond to Do Not Track at this point, but some of them are monitoring how many times the DNT signal is hitting their ad server.

At the time that data was collected, Firefox 4 was still pretty new and had a user base that could be considered “early adopters” of new web technology-arguably, those are the people most likely to utilize a Do Not Track system. But the usage rates were very low. And Polonetsky says that’s in line with the historical rates of traditional “opt outs” that he’s seen while working at DoubleClick and at AOL (NYSE: AOL).

“Opt out rates have consistently been under 1 percent, for more than a decade now,” says Polonetsky. “And they are not likely to change with the advent of Do Not Track. It’s not going to be a big, scary thing.”

Whatever targeting value advertisers lose because of Do Not Track adoption is likely to be far less than what they’re already losing from users who regularly delete their cookies, or use anti-spyware programs that delete their cookies. The numbers on cookie deletion are “all over the map,” says Polonetsky, but they typically range from 20 percent to 35 percent of users.

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