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Dave Jacoby
Dave Jacoby

Posted on • Originally published at on

HTTP_DNT: ‘1’ - What To Do?


navigator.doNotTrack: true

I always say I do “Web but Not Web”. I use common technologies that use ports 88 and 443 – HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Bootstrap, JSON, curl, etc – but my work is creating interfaces so science can be done. We’re not ad-driven and we’re not general access, and our users can spend in the thousands of dollars for one transaction.

And so, while we have HTTP_DNS: 1, we also have REMOTE_USER: "jacoby". So, I’m saying “This is who I am; give me access to everything I have done and can do”, but I am also saying “Do not track me”.

I can say that I have only really looked at the server log files twice. Once because … well, assume a URL You’re already on and want to a link to test.html. You could make it to test/test.html or /test/test.html, or use the full. Or, as it turns out, you could make it http:///test/test.html. I think. Why would you do such a thing? No clue. But some of our links were exactly that. And, it turns out Chrome and Firefox do (did?) the “Right Thing” and recognized that you meant, but (at the time) Safari did not. This seems straightforward in that telling, but it was $user couldn’t get to $page, so what is that user and what browser.

(I reported a “This is really stupid” bug to Safari, which crashed the ticket tracker, so I reported that as well.)

The other … I can’t recall if there was a bad outcome related to it, I recall finding that a grad student from Georgia Tech was connecting via a Chinese-language browser built upon the IE (6? 5?) engine.

Otherwise, I see the error log, but I see time, client IP address (which mostly doesn’t matter), and a long list of the failings of my code. Well, mostly. And I ignore them anyway.

That’s two cases where I tracked, one ending with “So that’s how Chinese people browse” and one with a real solved problem.

I know there’s lots of things that show up in the server-side environment variables that could be used, beyond REMOTE_ADDR, REMOTE_USER and the lie that is HTTP_USER_AGENT, if I start pulling things out of the DOM like window.innerHeight, window.innerWidth and navigator.platform, etc., I could probably distinguish two machines coming from behind a firewall, but why? If I was trying to determine from your searches if you’re the one searching for running bassett hounds so I can put more dog pictures in your ads, that would be one thing, but I only care about the one thing: Are you the person who submitted this job to us?

So, I guess my question is, both in my current position and in the greater context of being a web developer in 2018, what should I be doing to respect the Do-Not-Track flags? Is maintaining server-level logs still a thing?

If you have any questions or comments, I would be glad to hear it. Ask me on Twitter or make an issue on my blog repo.

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