Google changes tack on ‘do not track’

By Andrew Charlesworth
24 Feb 2012 View Comments
Security enhancements will be added with the Chrome 17 update

Google has reversed its policy on "do not track" (DNT) for its browser Chrome and will include the feature by the end of the year.

DNT will allow users to set their browsers so that the websites they visit cannot track the pages they visit. Tracking is used by many sites and advertisers to harvest data on visitors' behaviour.

Further reading

Most other popular browsers already offer DNT.

Recently Google has been lambasted by privacy groups and the European Commission over its privacy stance.

The company's decision also follows high-profile government-led online privacy initiatives in Europe and the US.

Yesterday the US government announced plans to introduce a written Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, similar in scope to European data privacy laws.

"As the internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy," said President Barack Obama in a statement.

"That's why an online privacy Bill of Rights is so important. For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure."

The White House statement said the government will work with internet technology providers, privacy groups and industry in general to shape the necessary legislation.

European citizens have benefitted from evolving data protection and privacy laws for two decades.

In January 2012, the European Commission published a draft update to the Data Protection Directive which goes further than ever in demanding companies treat personal data with the upmost care.

In June 2011, vice-president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes set a 12-month deadline for web firms to agree on a DNT standard.

This includes not just how browsers provide DNT, but how it is dealt with by the website visited.

Mozilla's Firefox was the first major browser to add DNT in February 2011, quickly followed by Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9.

Apple's Safari has the feature, but it is buried in an esoteric menu. Apple has promised to make DNT more accessible in its next operating system release, Mountain Lion.

Opera's eponymous browser doesn't support DNT, but an as-yet unreleased new build of the software does.

The addition of Chrome means browser DNT is relatively settled. But how websites treat DNT is still to be tackled.

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