Google jumps into 'Do Not Track' debate with Chrome add-on

Expert applauds Mozilla, Google for following Microsoft in adding browser privacy tools

By , Computerworld |  Internet, browsers, google chrome

"It's useful to explore different ways to address privacy on the Internet," said Brookman. "I see this as [akin to] beta testing by the browser makers, whether it's the Do No Block HTTP header or Microsoft's blocklist, because they need to get data around how things really work."

While Brookman was less impressed with Google's idea -- he called it a "marginal improvement" and "a step in the right direction" -- he gave the search company credit for doing something. "Like the others, they're exploring options," Brookman said.

It's too early to say which strategy will dominate, or even if one does, Brookman added, but he expects to see continued movement on privacy during 2011.

"It looks like they're iterating pretty quickly," Brookman said, referring to the bandwagon that Mozilla and Google have joined in the last two days. "We'll see this move very quickly."

Brookman saved his biggest praise for Mozilla, and its Do Not Track HTTP header concept.

"It's very easy to do on the part of browser makers," he said, echoing Mozilla's belief that the technology -- which doesn't rely on a list, as does Microsoft's approach, or on cookies, as does Google's -- was the simplest solution.

Mozilla's assumption, of course, is that Web sites and advertisers will buy into the idea.

"That's the chicken and the egg problem, that sites and advertisers will build support [for the header]," said Brookman. "But by putting a bug fix out there means that there will be more discussion of the approach. The three or four months it will probably take Mozilla [to add the feature to Firefox] means they can use the time to build support."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has called on browser makers to add additional privacy features to their software so users can decide how much information to share with sites and advertisers.

Ironically, Brookman credited concerns about Facebook's information-sharing for jump-starting the discussion about Do Not Track and browsers.

"A lot of it comes from Facebook ," Brookman argued. People can relate to tales of the popular social networking service sharing their personal data, he said, when they may not understand the intricacies of personalized Web ads, and how sites and advertisers monitor consumers' movements on the Web.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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