Google's Chrome finally embraces Do Not Track, but with a warning

DNT was already supported by browsers from Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple, and now it's a feature of Chrome as well. But people turning on the feature in Google's browser are warned that many websites will still collect their data to serve ads.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Google has become the last major browser vendor to embrace the Do Not Track standard, with the release of Chrome 23 on Tuesday.

Do Not Track (DNT) is an option in browsers and other internet-connected systems that lets users tell websites they don't want to be tracked as they surf the web. It is already found in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and iOS 6, but Google — a company for whom web tracking is a core business — had until this week been the big holdout.

The new version of Chrome was revealed on Tuesday in a blog post from Google engineer Ami Fischman, who warned that, when it comes to DNT, results may vary.

"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," she wrote.

Indeed, the meaning of DNT is the subject of intense debate across much of the tech industry. Although the type of tracking it is intended to block is generally the handiwork of marketing and advertising firms, those self-same companies have been trying to argue that DNT should ignore their tracking systems.

Last month, EU digital commissioner Neelie Kroes expressed frustration at what she called "the watering down of the standard". She said DNT had to "build on the principle of informed consent, giving people control over their information".

Chrome updates

As for Google, those enabling DNT in Chrome now will see a warning message that states: "Many websites will still collect and use your browsing data — for example to improve security, to provide content, services, ads and recommendations on their websites and to generate reporting statistics."

DNT was not the only new feature in Chrome 23, as the update also makes it far easier to view and control a specific website's permissions. Where users previously had to turn to settings pages if they wanted to know what a webpage was trying to do with geolocation, camera access and pop-ups, this information is now viewable simply by clicking on the page or lock icon next to the URL.

Fischman's blog post also praised Chrome's use of GPU acceleration for video. GPUs are less power-hungry than CPUs, and the engineer noted that laptop charges in Google's tests "lasted 25 percent longer when GPU-accelerated video decoding was enabled".

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