Google updates Chrome, finally adds Do Not Track feature

Filed Under: Google, Google Chrome, Privacy

ChromeGoogle’s Chrome browser is cutting edge in just about every sense.

But when it comes to the "Do Not Track" feature, Chrome was a laggard: the last major browsing platform to support the feature.

That dubious distinction ended Tuesday, when Google released Chrome 23, which finally allows Chrome users to request that websites disable user tracking.

In a post on Google’s Chrome blog, the company made a passing reference to the new feature, after talking up clearly more interesting new features like GPU-accelerated video decoding on Windows systems (a real battery-saver) and easy-to-access per-site permissions.

The Chrome blog slips in a mention of Do Not Track

Google’s support for the feature comes almost two years since Microsoft implemented tracking protection in its IE9 browser, and eight months after the Mozilla Foundation announced support for the Do Not Track feature in its Firefox web browser.

Google’s wet blanket response is understandable.

The "Do Not Track" feature, currently a proposed W3C standard, has met with resistance from online advertisers and technology firms alike.

Do not track. Image from ShutterstockAdvertisers, acting through the Direct Marketing Association, have proposed modifying the W3C’s DNT standard to allow online advertisers to continue pushing marketing material to users, even after the DNT feature is enabled - leading to objections from other working group members.

Then, after Microsoft decided to enable the DNT feature by default with the release of its IE 10 browser, it was charged by competitors such as the Mozilla Foundation and Yahoo as well as the Direct Marketing Association of violating the spirit and letter of the draft W3C Do Not Track standard.

Some advertisers suggested they would not honor DNT requests by individual web browsers.

Then, in September, The Apache Project patched its ubiquitous web server to ignore Do Not Track flags in browsers where the option is enabled by default. Apache subsequently backed down and provides the code to ignore DNT as a commented option in its config files.

Late last month, Yahoo announced it would ignore Do Not Track signals from users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser, causing more privacy headlines.

Acknowledging the complexity of the current system, Google warned users that “the effectiveness” of Do Not Track requests “is dependent on how websites and services respond.”

Google, the company said, is “working with others on a common way to respond to these requests in the future.”

You can download the latest version of Chrome, Chrome 23, from Google's website.


No tracking image from Shutterstock.

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7 Responses to Google updates Chrome, finally adds Do Not Track feature

  1. Cohen · 709 days ago

    How does this differ from the 'Do not track plus' extension I have installed in Chrome? Do i need to uninstall it is I install Chrome 23?

    • markstockley · 709 days ago

      The Do Not Track mentioned in Paul's article is a standard for politely asking websites not to track you. Most websites are not equipped or not willing to obey that request so it is mostly useless as a means of managing your privacy.

      The advantage Do Not Track might offer in future is that it's co-operative rather than coercive so it shouldn't interfere with the correct functioning of websites.

      Do Not Track Plus is a browser extension that interferes with the methods websites use to track you. Unlike the Do Not Track standard it's coercive (it has to be because it's the only method that works at the moment) so it may interfere with the correct functioning of websites.

      If you're interested in your privacy then my advice is install Do Not Track Plus or Ghostery extensions to stop yourself being tracked today. Once you've done that I suggest you also enable Do Not Track in your browser just to help increase the pressure on websites to comply with the Do Not Track standard. The more people who demand it the more likely it is to happen.

      M

  2. TY for info on Twitter.. Google never let their users know. For current users you can access this by going into Settings > Advanced Settings > Click on > Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic

  3. MikeP_UK · 709 days ago

    To my way of thinking, having to modify a configuration file manually is not something the vast majority of users will not do, or do not know how to do! The DNT option should be a user-choice activated by a simple 'switch' available in a menu of an easily displayed and read page of optional settings.
    That way there are no problems about DMA members refusing to honour 'default' settings as they will all be user settings.
    How about a simple user-friendly method in all browsers, please?

  4. Nigel · 709 days ago

    I suppose it's better late than never, but until websites actually honor the DNT preference setting in browsers, it doesn't make much difference whether Chrome has it or not. I've had DNT enabled in my SeaMonkey browser since that feature was first included, for all the good it does. We're still at the point wherein expecting websites to honor DNT is like expecting gourmet from a mouthful of wasps.

    And Google is among the worst offenders of all. Install Ghostery or Do Not Track Plus and you'll quickly see that Google's equipping Chrome with DNT is the moral equivalent of a burglar asking whether you want to be robbed.

  5. Freida Gray · 709 days ago

    So when will Yahoo decide to ignore the DNT settings in Chrome?

  6. csbc · 646 days ago

    Not sure why, but only just seen markstockley's reply to my question 8 weeks ago [I guess I did not select 'Subscribe to'.

    I am confused - I have Do not track me, but his refs are to Do not track plus which is not in the Chrome web store as far as I can see.

    From what is said I am assuming that DNTM is more effective than Google's own DNT, but I often have to wait for pages and the status bar says 'Waiting for DNTM'.

    Is this normal?

    C

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About the author

Paul is a Boston-based reporter and industry analyst with more than a decade of experience covering the IT industry, cyber security and hacking. His work has appeared on threatpost.com, The Boston Globe, salon.com, NPR's Marketplace, Fortune Small Business, as well as industry publications including ZDNet, Computerworld, InfoWorld, eWeek, CIO , CSO and ITWorld.com. Paul got his 15 minutes as an expert guest on The Oprah Show - but that's a long story.