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Chrome To Implement 'Do Not Track'; Will It Do Any Good?

Chrome To Implement 'Do Not Track'; Will It Do Any Good?
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Web sites are not obliged to obey the signals that "Do Not Track" preferences send. According to Mark Stockley, a security analyst at Sophos, it's likely that most Web sites are functionally unable to obey them. In practical terms, he said, DNT is not a viable way to protect user privacy. Still, adoption by Google Chrome is a step forward.
 


Google is following through on its "Do Not Track," or DNT, promises for the Chrome browser. Google plans to start adding built-in DNT capabilities to the latest developer's build.

As its name suggests, Do Not Track capabilities mean Web browser users can decide whether or not they want to allow Web sites to track personal information it blocks advertisers and Web sites from collecting personal information that is typically used to target ads or otherwise learn more about their surfing habits. At least in theory. But will DNT really keep consumer Web searches private?

"We undertook to honor an agreement on DNT that the industry reached with the White House early this year," Google spokesman Rob Shiklin wrote in an e-mail to the All Things D blog. "To that end we're making this setting visible in our Chromium developer channel, so that it will be available in upcoming versions of Chrome by year's end."

Harming Anonymity?

Google is a bit behind the curve. Microsoft announced it would implement DNT in Internet Explorer 10. IE 9 already has DNT preferences, as does Firefox 4 and Safari 5.1. A developer posting in the Chrome forum says, "Chromium should be brought to feature parity with its peers."

But another commenter in the forum disagreed, arguing that Chrome should not follow its peers into DNT parity. The commenter, who goes by the handle Jochen, said Chrome's peers, i.e. Firefox, Safari and IE, are taking the wrong path.

"I don't want the Web's social norm to be somehow construed as consenting to tracking by default unless I send a special privacy requesting header. Companies will analyze the data that they receive and DNT is another bit of data that chips away at what little anonymity we have left," Jcohen said.

"It does this by both supposedly changing social expectations and actually sending *more* data. If I want to be tracked, I'd be happier with Chrome sending a PleaseTrackMe header when I should so choose to opt into privacy violations, useful tracking, and so on."

No Privacy Protection

Noteworthy is the fact that Web sites are not obliged to obey the signals that DNT preferences send. According to Mark Stockley, a security analyst at Sophos, at the moment it's likely that most Web sites are functionally unable to obey them. In practical terms, he said, DNT is not a viable way to protect user privacy.

"As unpromising as that sounds, Do Not Track has the backing of U.S. and European governments and industry giants like Adobe, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla. For all its faults it is the only Web privacy game in town," Stockley wrote in a blog post.

"Users can only express a DNT preference if they have a browser that knows how to send the DNT header, and that's why support for DNT in Chrome, one the most popular browsers, is a small but important step forward."
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

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Andrew:

Posted: 2012-09-17 @ 9:19pm PT
I don't think this plugin will make any difference. Can it really protect your privacy? I doubt it. How about making a "Do not crash" plus? LoL. My chrome does crash sometimes, although not very often. But it's still one of my main browsers. (I still have ie9,firefox and Avant browser.) I like its fast speed and simple interface.



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