Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chrome and Mozilla Announce Tracking Blockers

Firefox logoChrome logo
Last month Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer will be adding a "tracking protection" feature to its browser, allowing users to prevent advertising sites from tracking their activity on the web (ad targeting, really). This move was partly to stay ahead of an FTC push to mandate that browser makers add that feature. If you spent that few days between Christmas and New Year's hiding from computers and family, then perhaps you missed my post, Browsers to Add Tracking Blockers.

In that post I mentioned how Firefox had started the work, pulled it, and then brought it back. Well now it's official. You can read up on how it works at the Mozilla Wiki, where they were kind enough to put together a DoNotTrack FAQ. The FAQ helps readers understand that this is not the solution that will ultimately be implemented, since it relies on an HTTP header.

Google is relying on a cookie-based approach via a browser add-on. The only real difference from the voluntary Network Advertising Initiative that allows users to opt-out, which relies on cookies, is that the Chrome add-on won't blow away those cookies when a user clears all other cookies on his/her browser. You can read up on the confusingly-named Keep My Opt-Outs on one of the Google blogs (there are so darn many).

I suggest that if you plan on using these new features, which are not enabled by default and require some level of configuration to be useful, that you take a few minutes to read up on them:

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