Feeds

Google 'Do Not Track' extension preempts feds, Mozilla

Behavioral ad self-police

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Google has released a Chrome browser extension that lets you opt-out of tracking cookies from multiple online advertising networks. The move comes less than two months after the US Federal Trade Commission called for a "Do Not Track" mechanism that would let "consumers choose whether to allow the collection of data regarding their online searching and browsing activities" and just hours after Mozilla unveiled a proposal for such a mechanism.

Known as Keep My Opt-Outs, the new Chrome extension handles opt-outs for ad networks that are part of the industry's self-regulation program for online behavioral advertising. Asked if this was a case of an industry policing itself before the government police arrive, a Google spokeswoman said: "I don't know if I would frame it that way, but we certainly believe that self-regulation has worked very well so far."

The spokeswoman was unsure of how many ad networks were covered by the extension, but she said it does handle the top 15 networks in the US.

Earlier on Monday, Mozilla unveiled a "Do Not Track" proposal that would require the cooperation of website operators. "We are proposing a feature that allows users to set a browser preference that will broadcast their desire to opt-out of third party, advertising-based tracking by transmitting a Do Not Track HTTP header with every click or page view in Firefox," the open source outfit said in a blog post.

"When the feature is enabled and users turn it on, websites will be told by Firefox that a user would like to opt-out of [online behavioral advertising]."

In March 2009, Google unveiled a new behavioral advertising setup that it billed as "interest-based advertising". On YouTube and across sites using its AdSense ad network, the company began showing showing ads to netizens based on the pages they had visited in the past. "We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit," Google vice president Susan Wojcicki wrote in a blog post entitled "Making ads more interesting."

When it announced the program, Google also offered various tools that let you opt-out, and these included opt-out browser extensions for Firefox and Internet Explorer. Google has since introduced similar extensions for all major browsers, but like the original Firefox and IE extensions, these only handle Google's ad network.

The new extension is meant to work across third-party ad networks as well, and it's designed to maintain opt-outs even if you regularly clear your cookies. Some existing ad-network opt-outs are themselves cookie-based. "Today we are building on [Google' s previous opt-out] work, and that of others, by allowing you to permanently opt out of ad tracking from all companies that offer opt-outs through the industry self-regulation programs," Google said on Monday in a blog post. But the company also made a point of saying that if you install the extension, advertisements won't be tailored to your particular online habits.

"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," the company said.

In the wake of Google's 2009 behavioral advertising roll-out, privacy crusader Christopher Soghoian offered up a Firefox plug-in that maintained opt-outs for 27 separate behavioral ad networks. He called it the Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out project – TACO for short. He later sold TACO to a Massachusetts-based software outfit known as Abine, which rolled the plug-in into a suite of other security and privacy tools. Albine and Mozilla were accused of distributing bloatware after the add-on was automatically updated via Firefox's built-in update mechanism, and the project was quickly forked under the name Beef TACO.

At the moment, Google is offering an opt-out extension only for Chrome. But the company told us that it is working on extensions for other browsers as well. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.