Google has finally followed the lead of rival browsers by adding a 'do not track' option to Chrome. This asks advertising companies to respect your online privacy by not using cookies and other systems to track your activities as you browse the web. The feature is already available in Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox.
The long-awaited move comes as the US Government pushes through new online privacy rules, saying it will actually enforce 'do not track' systems via the Federal Trade Commission, although potential fines haven't been suggested.
The move seems to have spurred Google to introduce a system of its own. "We have always thought the idea of DNT was interesting, but there didn't seem to be a wide consensus on what 'tracking ' really means," a Google spokesperson said. "We didn't feel it was responsible to allow users to send a header in Chrome that largely had no effect and no agreed-upon meaning. Going forward, the scope is now clear, and we know that the header will be respected by the industry."
How will it affect you?
While the rules come via the US, Google's offer of a 'do not track' tool, which is already available via the Chrome Web Store, will give all users in any country the option of a bit more privacy. Do-not-track requests have been criticized in the past for being toothless, even by Firefox which helped develop the idea, so the enforcement threat should put some weight behind them and ensure respectable, reputable advertising companies pay attention and stop following you.
What do we think?
It’s about time Google brought Chrome into line with the rest of the browser market, but the tool it’s released only addresses advertising networks. New laws coming into force in the UK following an EU directive mean websites must ask before using cookies that measure the amount of visits to a website and target adverts at individuals.
More work needs to be done in this area to balance the privacy of users and the ability of websites to make money from advertising and get basic stats about how their site is used. However, this is a good start that puts the onus on the technology companies to priorities our wishes.