" />" class="alignright size-full wp-image-593" />It’s always been possible to avoid targeted ads or to hide your Web browsing history. It’s just never been easy. You had to clear out your Web browser cookies on a regular basis, learn how to get rid of the more persistent Adobe Flash cookies; and use applications like Tor to make sure you left no tracks behind you on the beach of the Internet. Now, Google—yes, Google—is offering a new Chrome extension, Keep My Opt-Outs, that will keep many major online advertising networks from following you.
In doing this, Google is following the lead of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which recently declared that “For every business, privacy should be a basic consideration (PDF Link)–- similar to keeping track of costs and revenues, or strategic planning.” To make that happen most of the major Web browsers, including Firefox and Internet Explorer are getting ready to release similar “Do not track” features.
Cynic that I am, my worry about all these schemes is that they require the Web sites and advertising networks to go along with them to work. The FTC can talk all it wants about the importance of privacy, but the Web financial wheels go around and around thanks to the engine of personal information.
I mean, where did Google make all its billions if not from tracking all those innumerable searches and using that information to better target ads? Is Google mad? Or, does its new leadership just want to do right by its users?
Be that as it may, Google makes it new extension sounds good though. In Google’s Keep My Opt-Outs announcement, Sean Harvey and Rajas Moonka, Google Product Managers, wrote, “There are more than 50 companies that are members that offer opt outs via these programs, including the top 15 largest ad networks in the U.S. Some, like Google, enable you not only to opt out, but to tailor the personalization of ads by specifying what types of ads you’re most interested in seeing.”
According to Google, this new extension will allow “you to permanently opt out of ad tracking from all companies that offer opt-outs through the industry self-regulation programs. Keep in mind that once you install the Keep My Opt-Outs extension, your experience of online ads may change: You may see the same ads repeatedly on particular websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you.”
I can live with that.
In addition, Google states that, “We’ve designed the extension so that it should not otherwise interfere with your web browsing experience or website functionality. This new feature gives you significant control without compromising the revenue that fuels the web content that we all consume every day.”
Google also claims that “As more companies adopt the industry privacy standards, their opt-outs will be automatically added to Keep My Opt-Outs. As with all Chrome extensions, you’ll be asked to allow Chrome to update the extension.”
If you want to see how protected, or not, you are from advertisers tracking you, you can visit Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising site. You can also use this site to decide which, if any, advertising networks you would like to continue tracking you.
This all sounds nice, but I’m going to have to try Keep My Opt-Outs for a while before I’m willing to give it a thumbs-up. If nothing else, though it is nice that Google is electing to give its Chrome users some control over their Web browsing cookie trail. What the heck, if Don Draper on the fictional Mad Men (http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/) can give up on cigarette ads, then maybe Google can give up universal ad tracking.