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Google Chrome Update Boosts User Privacy with Do Not Track Feature

Users of the Google Chrome browser now have more privacy options available to them. Access to permissions settings has been eased and Chrome now offers a “do not track” feature.

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Permission Denied

In an official blog posting, Google said changes to how users set permissions for web pages will make it “much easier to view and control any website’s permissions for capabilities such as geolocation, pop-ups, and camera/microphone access.”

The new permissions procedure enables Chrome users to click on a “page/lock” icon next to a site’s URL in the browser and then select from a list of settings. Different sites can be given different settings and users no longer have to go to settings pages to customize permissions. 

Follow Me Not

Google Chrome also now offers users the option of sending a “do not track” request to any site or online service to try to stop following and monitoring of user behavior after leaving the site. Google warns “effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services respond” and says it is working with “others” to create common “do not track” procedure.

Joining the Crowd - Is It Enough?

Chrome was the last major browser not to offer its own proprietary “do not track” feature and users previously had to rely on third-party extensions to maintain privacy settings. As reported by Daily Online Examiner, although users will automatically receive access to the feature, they must still manually turn it on in the advanced settings page.

The article also questions the effectiveness of “do not track” as currently offered by Google Chorme and other major browsers. “The do-not-track request doesn't prevent ad networks from collecting data about Web users or sending them ads,” states the Daily Online Examiner. “Instead, it only signals that users don't want to be ‘tracked’ — a concept that means different things to privacy advocates and ad networks.”

The article concludes by saying the FTC may support legislation to formalize “do not track” rules for online advertisers – perhaps the FTC is one of the unidentified “others” Google says it is working with (see more on Google’s interesting history with the FTC on this topic below).

Google Follows Through

Google is following through on a promise it made earlier this year to include “do not track” functionality in Chrome. What Google’s blog posting on the subject left out is that the promise came in the wake of a US$ 22.5 million settlement with the FTC for mishandling privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser.

Whatever prompted Google’s move, it brings Chrome in line with its competitors in terms of user privacy, though until “do not track” has more teeth it may not serve as a real deterrent to advertisers surreptitiously monitoring the online activities of private individuals.

 
 
 
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