Do Not Track now supported by Pinterest: what this means for you


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Pinterest Do Not TrackThis is a guest post by Steve Jain.

Back in July, Pinterest decided to support Do Not Track (DNT), the browser setting that aims to opt users out of online tracking. While this is a great move for privacy-conscious Pinterest users, it’s another reason for those not on Pinterest to consider enabling DNT too.

What is DNT? Turning on DNT tells sites to avoid using cookies to track your browsing history and other personal information. The caveat: it only works if the company serving the site supports it, and most do not.

So far, the list of companies recognizing DNT is short. Adoption has been slow for a variety of reasons, including the fact that technical specs for the standard are far from finalized. The only other major consumer web service to support DNT so far is Twitter.

Still, those looking to protect their privacy online should seriously consider enabling DNT. Now that Pinterest is supporting it, let’s take a quick look at what its decision means for its users (and nonusers).  

Do Not Track on pinterest

You’re a Pinterest user
In an effort to personalize its platform, Pinterest is starting to suggest boards to users based on sites users visit. So, for example, if you’re planning a party and have been visiting lots of party sites, Pinterest will suggest party-themed boards for you to follow on Pinterest.

Pinterest tracks your activity through embedded Pin It buttons on sites throughout the web. The first time you visit a website with an embedded Pin It button, a unique tracking cookie is created in your browser. Every subsequent time you load a website with a Pin It button, that cookie tells Pinterest you’ve visited that website. Over time, this can build a fairly extensive log of your online activity, whether or not you’re logged in to Pinterest.

If you’re not comfortable with Pinterest collecting this data, thanks to Pinterest’s support for DNT, there are now two ways to stop it:

  1. Enable DNT in your browser. This will disable tracking on Pinterest and other sites that support DNT.
  2. Toggle the Personalization setting to ‘No’ on your Pinterest settings page (you need to be logged in). Note that this option only disables tracking for Pinterest.

Pin-It-Button-30-Designs You’re not a Pinterest user
If you’re not a Pinterest user, Pinterest is still collecting data about your online activity through its Pin It buttons embedded on numerous websites–it just isn’t using this data to personalize your experience on Pinterest. Tracking works the same way: a unique tracking cookie is created the first time you load an embedded Pin It button, and then that cookie is used to send browsing activity to Pinterest every time you load a Pin It button.

You’ve got a couple of options to stop this tracking:

  1. Enable DNT in your browser. This will disable tracking on Pinterest and other sites that support DNT.
  2. Toggle the checkbox here on Pinterest’s website. Note that this option isn’t as permanent. Basically, it sets a special cookie on your browser telling Pinterest not to track you–so if you clear your cookies, that cookie will disappear, and Pinterest will resume tracking you.

In the end…
Enabling DNT is a practical, easy way to prevent Pinterest tracking, but only because Pinterest chose to support it on its site. There are workarounds, and while they may not be as elegant, they provide users and nonusers flexibility in managing their online identities.

In a world of privacy policies that are more or less take-it-or-leave-it, Pinterest should be commended for stepping beyond the privacy debate and doing something even better: giving its users choices about their privacy.

And remember to check out DoNotTrackMe for a more thorough remedy to online tracking: it works even if websites don’t respect DNT (and most don’t).

About the author: Steve started his career in finance before catching the startup bug and attending Startup Institute Boston. A long-standing privacy advocate, he created Fourloop to help people lock down their browser privacy and security in a single click. He’s now working on a venture to use video to increase the transparency of online classifieds.

5 Replies to “Do Not Track now supported by Pinterest: what this means for you”

  1. mablack says:

    I do not have a personal website, but am member of Flickr,Google+, and some others, have a gmail account, and on and on. I have used Firefox and DoNotTrack for a long time. I accept google’s tracking, etc.,(the bigger ones are going to do it anyway) but I am pretty predictable anyway and rather that “join” any site through Facebook or Google, I used a masked or my regular email address. I find that I get less spam that way..and any spam I do get is usually related to pictures, photoshop, etc.., so that isn’t bad because I am interested in those subjects.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good move Pinterest. Someone needs to be the anti-facebook.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is great news

  4. Jazzme says:

    thing is facebook chat and video are not working for me if I use DNT

  5. Alice Snafu says:

    Sorry, I do not see the point of asking trackers to delete the data which they will have collected. That’s like going to a resort in a dodgy country, wandering off the tourist tracks, waving cheerily at the louts loitering ahead, and asking them to be nice and let you pass unmolested!

    What is wrong with good ol’ tracker blocking? Needn’t just block trackers! [Other tools exist to deal with cookies.]

    Pick A Download… Part 2
    Last week I wrote a blog post on the dangers of ads posing as fake download buttons on various download web sites. Since then I received a lot of feedback from our readers and other security researchers on different tools available to help users avoid these dangers by blocking the ads entirely.

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