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Site Note: Tracking Follies Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

10 April 2019

In May 24, we detailed Our Tracking Policy, highlighting the status message in the left column of our headline page that indicates how you've set the tracking preference in your browser.

Alas, as John Dunn reported yesterday, the times have changed. In Chrome, Safari and Opera Criticised for Removing Privacy Setting, he writes, "It now looks as if Chrome and Opera users will soon be unable to change the default [tracking preference] at all, leaving hyperlink auditing permanently set to on, while for Safari [12.1] users this has already happened."

In Safari Link Tracking Can No Longer Be Disabled, Jeff Johnson details the situation in Safari, including the hidden preference removed from Safari 12.1. Running Chrome isn't going to be much of a solution either, he points out, with the flag removed from the current beta.

Apple claims its Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.1 is a better solution for privacy but it's only available on High Sierra and Mojave.

John Wilander, in the WebKit blog, explains:

The introduction of ITP 2.1 coincides with Safari removing support for the Do Not Track (DNT) signal. The DNT signal was an attempt by Web stakeholders to offer users an off-by-default way to ask servers not to track them. Importantly, DNT did not offer technical enforcement to prevent tracking of users by websites. Apple supported the DNT project starting in 2011, but since then, the vast majority of websites unfortunately have not changed their behavior in response to the DNT signal for the users who elected to turn it on. Instead, online tracking and tracking techniques have become more pervasive and sophisticated in spite of the DNT project.

Still, there's no real reason for removing it. It still expresses the visitor's intention quite clearly, whether or not it's honored.

There's an unrestrained streak of arrogance infecting the industry today.

Google is the biggest offender with its insistence on https protocol over http even for static sites like this (which, despite what your browser may say, is not "Not Secure").

We now and then get a little advice from Google about our HTML as well. Our Around The Horn pieces are not "responsive" because the links are too close together.

And just when we stopped laughing at that one (links, after all, are what HTML is all about), it informed us that our panoramas (like this one) exceed our page width. Right, that's why they're scrollable.

We'll continue to stuff our Horn with links and won't shy away from presenting images larger than our page width. But we can't do anything about your tracking preferences any more than you can.

We'll probably remove (or comment out) the indicator in our left column to avoid confusion after the new behavior becomes rooted. But we'll leave it there for now to remind us all of what we're losing.

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