Google has delivered a new tool that enables Chrome users to permanently opt out of ad-tracking cookies in the company’s browser. The new extension gives users the ability to make their choices about not being tracked by online advertisers permanent, at least in Google Chrome.
The move by Google to give users a lasting option for opting out of cookies is the latest fallout from the attention surrounding the federal government’s interest in creating a Do Not Track mechanism for browsers. That idea, which was raised by the Federal Trade Commission in a report on privacy late last year, has been dissected and analyzed every which way by security and privacy experts. Some experts have said that the idea could work, but it needs to be implemented carefully–ideally as an element of HTTP headers–in order to for that to happen.
“A more elegant solution—and the
one that many technologists seem to have coalesced around—is the use of a
special HTTP header that simply tells the server whether the user is
opting out of tracking for that Web request, i.e. the header can
be set to either “on” or “off” for each request. If the header is “on,”
the server would be responsible for honoring the user’s choice to not be
tracked. Users would be able to control this choice through the
preferences panel of the browser or the mobile platform,” wrote Harlan Yu of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, in an analysis of the FTC’s idea.
Google’s entry in this arena is a new Chrome extension called Keep My Opt-Outs, which saves user preferences for opting out of certain tracking mechanisms, even after the user has cleared his browser’s cache, cookie settings and history. The idea being that it makes it easier for users to set their preferences once and then not worry about it again.
“We’ve been working on addressing these issues for awhile. Nearly two years ago, we engineered a solution for Google’s ad system. We made available, for all major browsers, a downloadable browser plugin
that enables you to permanently opt out of Google’s advertising cookie,
even if you deleted all your browser’s cookies. We’ve also built
granular cookie controls into Chrome directly, and integrated Adobe Flash Player storage management
into these controls. We’ve also modified Chrome’s incognito mode to
ensure that it applies to “Flash cookies” in addition to regular
cookies,” Google’s Sean Harvey and Rajas Moonka wrote in a post explaining the new offering.
“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. 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. Importantly, we’ve designed the extension so that it should not
otherwise interfere with your web browsing experience or website
functionality. This new feature gives you significant control without
compromising the revenue that fuels the web content that we all consume
Google said it is working on a way to make the new extension work with other browsers, such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, as well. Meanwhile, Mozilla is working on its own solution, a do-not-track HTTP header along the lines of what Yu discussed in his post. With the header enabled, sites would be told that the user is opting out of tracking cookies used in behavioral advertising.