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Web companies, start-ups race to look privacy-friendly

Somini Sengupta (via NYT/ AFR) | March 4, 2013
In some instances, established companies are trying to gain market advantage by casting themselves as more privacy-friendly than their rivals. For example, Mozilla, an underdog in the browser market, suggested last week that it would allow its users to disable third-party tracking software altogether.

Whether internet users are ready to pay to protect their personal data is unclear, though surveys have repeatedly pointed to consumer anxiety.

In a national survey last year, Forrester found that one in three consumers were concerned about companies having access to their behavioural data. More than 40 per cent said they had stopped short of completing a transaction on a web site because of something they read in a privacy policy.

Consumer trust is an increasingly vital commodity for Web companies, said Fatemeh Khatibloo, a Forrester analyst. "There's enough market traction and momentum from the consumer side and the business side to drive this forward," Ms Khatibloo said.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser, ruffled the feathers of the online advertising industry when it announced that it was testing a new tool that blocked third-party tracking software, known as cookies. The company said it had not made a final decision on whether to incorporate the tool into its browser, though some version of it was likely to be included.

Already, said Alex Fowler, Mozilla's chief privacy officer, nearly 12 per cent of desktop users of Firefox and 14 per cent of Firefox users on Google's Android mobile operating system have turned on the Do Not Track signal. "They're asking for a different level of privacy on your service," he said. "You have to listen to that. It's critical to your business.



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