Google has included support for the Do Not Track privacy setting in its latest Chrome developer build, which was released today.
Do Not Track — which aims to help users opt out of being tracked across Web sites for the purposes of targeted advertising — is contentious and still somewhat theoretical. But since Chrome is close to becoming the world’s most-used browser, if it’s not already, its support for DNT is pretty important.
Of all the major browser providers, Google had moved the slowest on Do Not Track, but had earlier this year agreed at the request of the Obama Administration that it would implement DNT.
Google spokesman Rob Shilkin said in an emailed statement, “We undertook to honor an agreement on DNT that the industry reached with the White House early this year. To that end we’re making this setting visible in our Chromium developer channel, so that it will be available in upcoming versions of Chrome by year’s end.”
When Do Not Track is turned on within a browser, a snippet that specifies “DNT:1” is added to the request header whenever a user wants to go to a new Web site. Once Chrome adds this to its full release, that will happen across all major browsers.
But critics say it’s not necessarily clear what sites and advertisers have to do in response to DNT being turned on.
That could be a significant problem, because users will think they’re not being tracked since they explicitly changed a setting (seems like a reasonable assumption!) — but they may just be making a request that can be ignored. Talk about defeating the purpose.
All the Web and advertising players are still sorting out how to deal with this; some, like Google, more reluctantly than others.
For instance, since Microsoft decided to turn on DNT by default in Internet Explorer 10, developers of the Apache Web server are now saying they will ignore Do Not Track requests from IE visitors because it goes against the spirit of DNT being a choice. Also, even though Facebook is doing its own ad exchange, it hasn’t agreed to participate in Do Not Track at all.
Image via Maxthon corporate blog.