Google has released a new Chrome extension to address privacy concerns tied to online behavioral tracking.
Google has thrown its own hat into the ring in efforts to address privacy
concerns related to online behavioral tracking.
hours after Mozilla pitched
its idea for a "Do Not Track" mechanism for
Firefox, Google announced an extension for the Google Chrome browser that
will allow users to permanently opt out of being tracked online by advertisers'
cookies, provided the companies offer opt-outs through industry self-regulation
Google is calling the technology "Keep
," which it is touting as a one-step, persistent opt-out of
personalized advertising and related data tracking by companies. The extension
will not opt users out of cookies unrelated to personalized ads, or from ads
coming from companies that do not participate "in self-regulatory efforts," the
company wrote in a Frequently Asked Questions on the add-on.
"Advertising companies that are members of the Network Advertising
Initiative (NAI) already let you opt out of tracking for the purposes of
personalizing advertisements, and many online advertisers and trade
associations have also joined a major self-regulatory effort to enforce a
uniform privacy icon for ads, as well as opt-out guidelines," Google product
managers Sean Harvey and Rajas Moonka wrote
in a joint blog post
"There are more than 50 companies that are members that offer opt-outs via
these programs, including the Top 15 largest ad networks in the U.S.,"
they added. "Some, like Google, enable you not only to opt out, but to tailor
the personalization of ads by specifying what types of ads you're most
interested in seeing."
On Jan. 23, Mozilla revealed plans for a "Do Not Track" feature that will
let a Website know when a user wants to opt out of third-party tracking for
behavioral advertising by sending a Do Not Track HTTP header every time their
data is requested from the Web. The HTTP header will not be turned on by
"We believe the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the
Web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out
mechanism than cookies or blacklists," blogged Alex Fowler, Mozilla's
technology and privacy officer.
Microsoft has also offered up an approach with the TPL
(Tracking Protection List) feature included
in Internet Explorer 9
. The TPL stores
Web addresses the browser will visit only if the user clicks on a link or types
in the address.
The industry has faced a recurring technical challenge with opt-outs and
controls, Harvey and Moonka
"If you clear your browser's cookies, all customized settings-including
these opt-outs-are lost," they wrote. "Another challenge is that sometimes new
companies offer opt-outs, so you'd have to check frequently to make sure you're
opted out of what you want. A better Do Not Track mechanism is a browser
extension that means you can easily opt out of personalized advertising from
all participating ad networks only once and store that setting permanently."
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK that many ad networks already offer
individual opt-outs, which are typically achieved by attaching an "opt-out
cookie"-a small file containing a string of characters that stores a preference
for opting out-to a user's browser.
"Opt-out cookies in the industry, however, can be lost when a user
clears cookies," the spokesperson said. "Keep My Opt-Outs preserves
an opt-out cookie, even if users clear other cookies from their browsers."
Google has already made a plug-in available for all major browsers that
enables users to opt out of Google's advertising cookie. The company has also
built cookie controls directly into Chrome, and integrated Adobe Flash Player
storage management into these controls.
"Today we are building on this work, and that of others, by allowing you to
permanently opt out of ad tracking from all companies that offer opt-outs
through the industry self-regulation programs," Harvey and Moonka blogged.
"Keep in mind that once you install the Keep My Opt-Outs extension, your
experience of online ads may change: You may see the same ads repeatedly on
particular Websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you."