NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The battle over online privacy has come to Chrome.
Google today released a new app for its Chrome browser, Keep My Opt-Out. It's the latest in a series of moves by popular web browsers to offer software, or extensions, that allows users to prevent certain advertisers and data companies from tracking them online. Mozilla first offered a solution for its Firefox browser and Microsoft quickly followed suit with its Internet Explorer browser.
Google says the opt-out extension will retain the user's preferences on which advertisers can and cannot track their behavior. But what is significant about Google's software is that its browser extension is compatible with the advertising industry's self-regulatory program called AboutAds.info. Any preferences a user sets on the industry's program will also update the Chrome app, signaling cooperative efforts between the ad industry and technology developers.
"We recognize that some users are uncomfortable with the personalization of ads that they see on the web and we offer many levels of control over this personalization," Google's site reads. Interestingly, the site offers this disclaimer: "Once you install Keep My Opt-Outs, your experience of online ads will change: You may see the same ads repeatedly, or see ads that are less relevant to you. ... It also may result in less profitable ads for your favorite websites."
The Federal Trade Commission has been actively looking at how online marketers track people's browsing habits and whether the industry can create a sufficient opt-out mechanism. Online tracking activity is enacted via small bits of computer code, otherwise known as "cookies," that sit on a browser, collect data on sites visited and send information back to advertisers and data collectors. The FTC had publicly stated its preference for a browser-based mechanism, though critics say such a system does not take into account the fluid aspect of browser software. Such a device would hinge on the very technology that allows marketers to track users -- cookies -- that can be deleted or may not carry over to other browsers should the user switch program preferences.
The FTC recently extended its deadline for the public to submit comments on its report about online privacy from Jan. 31 to Feb. 18.