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November 07, 2012

Google Adds Do Not Track to Chrome, Warns Effect will be Less than Complete

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The growing movement for Do Not Track options in browsers counted, essentially, one major holdout in the form of Google (News - Alert) Chrome. With the release of Chrome 23 yesterday, that holdout gave up the ghost, and Do Not Track is a standard feature across all of the major browsers. Google's bow to the Do Not Track standard came with a warning, however, that the effects of Do Not Track would likely not be as robust as some hoped.

Google engineer Ami Fischman describes the effects of the Do Not Track addition, warning that: "The effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services respond, so Google is working with others on a common way to respond to these requests in the future."

Meanwhile, the very concept of Do Not Track is the subject of lively debates throughout the tech industry, meaning that it's likely that websites will be, as Fischman suggests, treating the Do Not Track requests in a variety of ways, including some that don't necessarily provide the results that activists had hoped for.

Advertisers want Do Not Track to ignore their own tracking efforts, as tracking allows them to serve up the most relevant, useful--and thus potentially successful--advertising for those who use media. Advertisers don't want to advertise products to people not interested in those products, or at least products like them. There's no sense to advertise a deal on fruit salad to someone who's allergic to strawberries, Colonel Sanders doesn't advertise to vegans, and a plethora of other examples readily come to mind.

There are several other reasons that websites want to track, regardless of users' stance on the matter. Improving security, generating statistics and of course providing the best advertising are all possibilities, and Google mentions those in a warning message that comes up whenever users activate the Do Not Track feature in Chrome, basically telling users that they'll put out the request, but websites may ignore it anyway.

Do Not Track aside, Chrome 23 will also bring more useful new features, including the ability to view and control specific permissions for websites much more readily than previously found, as well as a new switch to GPU acceleration for video instead of the CPU, which provided a significant boost to laptop battery life.

The issues inherent in Do Not Track are going to be part and parcel of the Internet experience for some time to come. While they likely won't be resolved any time soon, or in a fashion that's amenable to all concerned, hopefully at least some form of compromise can be worked out that allows users to travel in something like privacy while still giving advertisers their best chance to make an impact.




Edited by Brooke Neuman
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