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Google, Mozilla Adding New 'Do Not Track' Features to Browsers

firefox's do not track http headerYesterday, both Mozilla and Google introduced new browser features capable of preventing third-party advertisers from tracking Firefox and Chrome users, respectively. And, while both services aim to give users greater control over their online information, they operate in noticeably different ways.

Mozilla's new system alerts third-party advertisers and companies whenever a Firefox user doesn't want to be tracked. Once a user activates the feature, every third-party service attempting to track his behavior will receive an alert, in the form of a 'Do Not Track HTTP Header.' As a result, users will get a steady diet of more generic, less personalized ads. The only caveat, however, is that Mozilla's mechanism relies upon the cooperation of third-party tracking companies.

Meanwhile, Google introduced a Chrome plug-in called 'Keep My Opt-Outs,' which allows users to permanently opt-out of any online tracking conducted by companies that already offer self-regulated opt-out services. In other words, once you opt-out with a program like the Network Advertising Initiative, or the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising, Google's plug-in will remember your settings, thereby guaranteeing that you won't need to rely on cookies to do so. The net result, however, should be the same. "You may see the same ads repeatedly on particular websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you," Google explained in a blog post.

The announcements come just a few weeks after the Federal Trade Commission publicly advocated the creation of an online 'Do Not Track' list, to protect consumers from online advertisers. Unlike Microsoft's 'Tracking Protection' feature for Internet Explorer 9, neither the Firefox nor the Chrome feature requires users to manage their own lists of blocked sites. Nevertheless, the FTC seems to think that Mozilla and Microsoft are ahead of the consumer-protection curve.

"Mozilla's initiative is to be commended," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, in a statement. "It recognizes that consumers want a choice about who is tracking their movements online, and it's a first step toward giving consumers choice about who will have access to their data. It also signals that Do Not Track options are technically feasible." The Commission was somewhat less glowing in its praise for Google. "We're pleased that Google is engaged in the process," an FTC spokeswoman said. "But Mozilla and Microsoft are clearly steps ahead."

Tags: advertising, browser, chrome, cookies, DoNotTrack, extension, firefox, ftc, google, KeepMyOptOuts, mozilla, plug-in, privacy, security, TargetedAdvertising, top, Web