Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Do Not Track support in Adblock Plus [Updated] · 2011-03-25 23:22 by Wladimir Palant

Adblock Plus 1.3.5 has been released today. One of the new features is support for the Do Not Track proposal which was previously only available in development builds. Given that this feature is not obvious I want to answer some questions.

What is this Do Not Track proposal about?

The proposal defines a way for users to opt out of tracking. The browser sends a special value with each request to indicate that the user doesn’t wish that his data (and particularly movements across websites) is stored and analyzed. This approach is a vast improvement to the current state that requires you to maintain opt-out cookies for several dozen domains.

Does anybody currently honor Do Not Track header?

No, not that I know of. Fortunately, with Mozilla and Microsoft already supporting this approach and Federal Trade Commission leaning towards endorsing it, chances are good that this will change soon.

Update (2011-03-31): Less than a week later, this statement is already outdated. The Mozilla blog announced that Associated Press News Registry service already implemented the DNT header. That’s 800 news sites with 175 million unique visitors each month. And Mozilla has more good news, go read the article.

Doesn’t blocking ads have the same effect already?

Yes, it does. However, sometimes data on you will still be collected when you browse the web — be it because an ad server wasn’t on the block list or because the party collecting data isn’t an advertiser at all. You can think of Do Not Track as your second line of defense, for the cases where blocking fails.

How do I enable Do Not Track in Adblock Plus?

The easiest way is adding a filter subscription focusing on privacy protection. The logical choice is EasyPrivacy if your main filter subscription is EasyList or Fanboy’s Tracking List if your main filter subscription is Fanboy’s List. Both of these subscriptions already contain the necessary filter (*$donottrack). You can also add this filter to your Adblock Plus filter list manually.

Why does Adblock Plus need to support Do Not Track if Firefox 4 already does it?

Adblock Plus supports a wide range of host applications, not only Firefox 4. Right now the only applications where we don’t support Do Not Track are Google Chrome and Firefox Mobile 4. But even if all applications adopt Do Not Track — a user who installs a privacy protection subscription in Adblock Plus already made a privacy choice, it makes sense to enable Do Not Track without asking again. Also, the Adblock Plus approach is more flexible and allows sending Do Not Track to particular servers only (right now it is not clear whether this flexibility will be necessary).

I use a privacy protection subscription but I don’t like Do Not Track. How do I disable it?

You can add an exception rule like @@*$donottrack to your Adblock Plus filter list. This will make sure that the Do Not Track header is never sent.


Comment [9]

  1. Deo Domuique · 2011-03-25 23:29 · #

    Like that? I’ve correctly disabled it, right? I will enable it later, since right now is pretty much useless.

    Would you explain us what other changes 1.3.5 has? Also, what’s your plans for 1.3.6 ?

    Thank you!

  2. Useful Person · 2011-03-26 00:57 · #

    This approach is a wast improvement to the current state that requires you to maintain opt-out cookies for several dozen domains.

    I think you meant ‘vast improvement’

    Also: currently saying this is wrong. The header is completely useless at this moment. Furthermore there is no reason to believe that the header will be used in a manner similar to the opt-out cookies. Perhaps it will be used for some less strong definition of tracking or perhaps it will be used for a completely different purpose.

    While it is nice to have some shared header, it is useless until we determine what the header actually means.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Thanks, fixed the typo.

  3. Walter K · 2011-03-26 01:57 · #

    Since it’s a new release, I’ll ask about the version compatibility. The current Adblock Plus 1.3.3 on the AMO is “Not available for Mobile 4.0” on Android. Will this be fixed with the latest version of ABP?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    You can get Adblock Plus 1.3.5 here: On it isn’t reviewed yet.

  4. Walter K · 2011-03-26 01:59 · #

    I’ll answer my own question. Yes, Mobile FF 4 is supported! I need to read the release notes first ;(

  5. frank · 2011-03-28 16:53 · #

    Sorry, but i think the DNT stuff is bullshit.
    1. It is is a voluntary approach
    2. The advertiser have a new category(“person wants privacy”) to put you in

  6. Gingerbread Man · 2011-03-28 21:18 · #

    Spot on.

    I can see how this is a useful marketing gimmick for Mozilla and Microsoft, but this is completely pointless for Adblock Plus. It either does absolutely nothing, or it helps advertisers profile you even more.

    Plus, I’m using Firefox 4 which already supports this, so it’s just more junk for me to disable. And on that note, I’m thankful there’s a way to switch it off.

  7. htheg · 2011-03-29 20:51 · #

    FYI: Some routers are known to have bugs where they act strange if a Do Not Tracker header is present. For example, I’m unable to log into the browser based administration interface of my Easybox 802 router device while ABP is active. I’ve read other devices have similar bugs. NoScript’s Do Not Track support caused the same problem a few months ago.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Yes, a bug report has been filed on that already. I’ll implement the same work-around as NoScript.

  8. chewey · 2011-03-31 19:16 · #

    htheg: The Easybox 802 is seriously broken in that regard, and it looks like there’s nothing ABP can do about that.

    You can whitelist your router’s IP address or hostname so the DNT header isn’t sent to it. I have reported the issue to Vodafone, but haven’t heard back from more than their autoresponder so far.

  9. The Ghost · 2011-04-02 14:49 · #

    Adblockplus does not seam to work the way it did when I got it, why do I need to right click then click disable and stuff? Which leads me to another question I try to do that on YouTube’s ads and the option does not appear why is that? and when I had the old firefox it worked so go it did not show any ads at all not even on videos, blogtv shows and more so why not now?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Probably because you don’t have a filter subscription: Feel free to ask questions in the forum, there you will get an answer sooner.

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