Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Feb. 23 said it is embracing the "Do Not Track" policy to streamline consumer privacy on the Web, and plans to support the initiative in its popular Chrome Web browser by the end of the year.
Formulated by the White House, Federal Trade Commission and the Digital Advertising Alliance, Do Not Track will allow Internet users to add a Do Not Track header from browsers such as Chrome, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer. This will tell Websites not to track them across the Web.
Mozilla was the first to step up and embrace Do Not Track when it was unveiled last year, with Microsoft following with Internet Explorer 9 shortly thereafter. Safari has supported Do Not Track since launching version 5.1 last July.
Google, the online ad market leader that stands to lose the money from not being able to track users and target them with online ads, relented this week.
While Google hasn't specified its implementation of Do Not Track, it is believed the company will add a checkbox to trigger the tool in its Chrome user settings.
Google's adoption of Do Not Track doesn't preclude cookies, small computer files online ad providers use to track users' travels around the Web, from existing in Chrome.
What it means is that cookies will not be used to build targeted ads, or those tailored to users based on users' past surfing and other online behavior. Do Not Track supporters may not use that cookie-tracking data to divine information about users' employment, credit, health treatment or insurance eligibility, or for sensitive data about children.
However, the more "personal" users want their experience with Chrome or other browsers to be, the more info can be tracked about those users, according to Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising for Google.
"For example, if users have requested personalization (such as by signing up for particular services) or visit Websites that use "first-party" cookies to personalize the overall experience (for example, a news Website recommending articles to its readers, or a video site remembering your volume preferences), then browsers will not break that experience," Wojcicki wrote in a blog post.
In other words, users will still be tracked and will see ads targeted to their behavioral tastes online. Wojcicki was careful to note that Google believes tailoring users' Web experience with more relevant, interest-based ads is a "good thing."
"This agreement will not solve all the privacy issues users face on the Web today," Wojcicki added. "However, it represents a meaningful step forward in privacy controls for users. We look forward to making this happen.
So does the Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with enforcing Do Not Track and punishing transgressors.
"It's great to see that companies are stepping up to our challenge to protect privacy so consumers have greater choice and control over how they are tracked online," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "More needs to be done, but the work they have done so far is very encouraging."