November 7, 2012
Google’s Chrome Is Last To Add Do Not Track
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Is it any wonder that the company with quite the vested interest in online advertising is the last to the Do Not Track (DNT) ballgame? Today, Google has announced the latest stable version of their Internet browser, Chrome 23. In a very short blog post, Google gives the new DNT addition a brief mention, saying: “This latest release also includes an option to send a “do not track” request to websites and web services. 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.”
Firefox added this capability last summer and since then the other major browsers have followed suit, with Google acting as the last hold out. The Do Not Track feature prevents Web sites and online advertisers from tracking your moves and behaviors online in order to serve up tailored ads.
The issue of DNT-enabled browsers has recently come to the forefront, however, as Microsoft announced this summer that the version of Internet Explorer to be packaged with Windows 8 will have this feature turned on by default, without the user´s interaction. While this sounds like a kind and noble gesture on behalf of Microsoft, this move understandably upset both advertising agencies and privacy advocates.
For instance, the board for the Association of National Advertisers has sent a note along to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying leaving DNT turned on by default is anti-competition. According to the letter, the Association feels having this feature turned on by default will limit the ads and options users will see, therefore preventing other brands and companies from reaching a full audience. This letter was signed by corporate behemoths such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company and Wal-Mart Stores.
“This result will harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy,” read one part of the letter.
While Microsoft´s decision to leave DNT turned on by default was meant to protect its users, some privacy groups are saying this feature alone isn´t enough to fully protect people on the Internet. Just as Google mentioned, the effectiveness of this feature depends on how websites receive it. While there are some websites who will honor the DNT request, there are some which won´t cooperate. Furthermore, Microsoft´s harsh stance on the matter has turned some web servers against the measure and some sites have claimed that they will ignore any DNT requests from Microsoft. Apache and Yahoo have already said they plan to block DNT in Internet Explorer 10 as a response to Microsoft´s aggressive stance.
The DNT in Chrome 23, however, is not enabled by default. As such, users who do not wish to have their online activity tracked have to turn it on manually. Once the feature is turned on, Chrome displays a warning dialogue which reads, in part: “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.”
Google also promises the new Chrome 23 will allow for longer battery life on Windows-based machines when GPU-accelerated video encoding is enabled.