About two years ago, Google launched a browser plugin that allowed users to opt out of the company’s ads tracking mechanism. By tracking your moves around the Internet, Google – and most other advertising companies – can ensure that you see relevant ads (read: ads you are likely to click) on the pages you visit. Today, just a few hours after Mozilla announced its plan to offer a do-not-track tool for Firefox, Google announced its own Chrome plugin that allows users to permanently opt out of personalized ads and data tracking from not just Google but a wide range of other online advertising companies as well.
According to Google, there are currently 50 advertising companies that are part of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), including the 15 largest ad networks, that will now let you opt out of data tracking through this plugin. While the add-on is currently only available for Google’s own browser, the company has released the source code on an open-source basis and plans to make it available for other browsers as well.
Until now, Google’s opt-out mechanism – and that of its competitors – worked reasonably well, but every time you cleared your browsers’ cookies, you would lose your settings. This new tool makes your choices permanent.
Once you have installed the plugin, you can head over to About Ads, the “Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising” to check if the plugin works.
So what changes once you install the plugin? According to Google, “you may see the same ads repeatedly on particular websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you.” Not much of a price to pay if you want to keep your browsing habits a bit more private.
Clearly, Google isn’t doing this just out of the goodness of its heart. There has been a lot of pressure on online advertising companies to enhance their users’ privacy. In the U.S., for example, the FTC just issued a major report on Internet privacy in December that endorses the idea of a “do-not-track list.” Instead of dealing with federal regulations, the advertising industry would obviously prefer to self-regulate and plugins like this are a step in this direction.