When the Federal Trade Commission suggested a do-not-track button approximately two years ago, the idea was initially resisted by most large technology companies. These companies, which included major search engines and software producers, earn a substantial portion of their revenues from online advertising and tracking. However, last year Mozilla’s Firefox became the first browser to offer the new do-not-track button and Internet Explorer as well as Apple have also included the feature in recent releases.
Now, according to Bloomberg, Google has indicated that they will be the next major company to include the do-not-track button. The Chrome browser, which accounts for approximately 30% of the browser market (worldwide), is expected to embed this new functionality in its browser by the end of this year. Lily Lin, a Google spokeswoman from the public affairs department, indicated that Google did not want to add a Do-Not-Track button until there was an agreed upon definition for tracking:
“We have always thought the idea of DNT [Do Not Track] was interesting, but there didn’t seem to be a wide consensus on what ‘tracking’ really means. We didn’t feel it was responsible to allow users to send a [Do Not Track] header in Chrome that largely had no effect and no agreed-upon meaning. Going forward, the scope is now clear, and we know that the header will be respected by the industry.”
Although the browser companies appear committed to providing consumers with new privacy options, the do-not-track button is not going to put an end to all tracking. While the data that is collected can no longer be used to personalize advertisements to an individual user or for other specifically named purposes, it is still permissible to use the collected information for “market research and product development.” In addition, the do-not-track button will not stop Facebook from collecting data through the company’s “Like” button.
However, the Digital Advertising Alliance, which represents over 400 advertising and tracking companies, has indicated that they will work with the FTC to ensure the online advertising industry properly “evolves” to protect consumers’ privacy.