Google Chrome 23 Includes New 'Do Not Track' Feature

Google Chrome users can enable a "do not track" feature in their browser to address concerns about online tracking. However, this feature mainly sends a "do not track" request message to Websites, which can respond in various ways.

Google has followed through on plans to provide a "do not track" feature in the latest version of its Chrome browser.

In Chrome 23, users have the option to select "do not track," which will include a request with their browser traffic for Websites to disable tracking. The move comes after the company announced in February that it would support "do not track" in Chrome by the end of the year.

The option is not enabled by default. To turn on, a user needs to go to the menu at the top-right corner of the browser and click on the "settings" option. From there, users should select "advanced settings," browse to the "privacy" menu and check the "send a 'do not track' request with your browsing traffic" option.

"This latest release … includes an option to send a 'do not track' request to Websites and Web services," blogged Google software engineer Ami Fischman. "The effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how Websites and services respond, so Google is working with others on a common way to respond to these requests in the future."

The addition of the "do not track" feature brings Google in line with other major browser vendors. Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Opera all have gone the same route in their most recent browsers.

The way this feature was adopted by Microsoft in Internet Explorer has been a source of controversy. In October, the board of directors of the Association of National Advertisers objected to Microsoft's plans to ship Internet Explorer 10 (IE 10) with the "do not track" setting turned on by default, stating in a letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that the decision could eliminate the ability to collect Web viewing data for much of the American public.

When users switch on the "do not track" feature, a message appears, which explains why Chrome's approach is not a perfect answer to users' demand for browsing privacy.

"Enabling 'do not track' means that a request will be included with your browsing traffic," according to the message. "Any effect depends on whether a Website responds to the request and how the request is interpreted. For example, some Websites may respond to this request by showing you ads that aren't based on other Websites you've visited. Many Websites will still collect and use your browsing data—for example to improve security, to provide content, services, ads and recommendations on their Websites, and to generate reporting statistics."

In addition to the "do not track" feature, the latest version of Chrome also patched 14 vulnerabilities, six of which are rated "high." Of the remaining eight, seven are rated "medium" and the final bug is classified as "low" risk. The company said it has also enabled GPU-accelerated video decoding for Chrome on Windows.

"Dedicated graphics chips draw far less power than a computer's CPU, so using GPU-accelerated video decoding while watching videos can increase battery life significantly," blogged Fischman. "You'll also find it much easier to view and control any Website's permissions for capabilities such as geolocation, pop-ups and camera/microphone access. This saves you from having to dig through settings pages to find these permissions. Now, simply click on the page/lock icon next to a Website's address in the omnibox to see a list of permissions and tweak them as you wish."