Chrome, Firefox to Offer Ad Tracking Opt-Out Solutions
Internet advertisers are able to create personalized ads by tracking user’s browsing habits with cookies (a term which has been subjected to far too many puns to warrant another), which is why you may see an advert for the next Twilight movie on your favorite website.
While tailored ads are more relevant — and generally more tolerable — than their generic counterparts, they also raise privacy concerns: websites can sell personal information to 3rd party advertisement agencies without the user’s knowledge.
To protect their users’ privacy, both Google and Mozilla have devised “Do Not Track” solutions for users to easily opt-out of personalized advertising. While the end goal is the same, the two companies have vastly different approaches.
Google has hacked together an extension for Chrome, Keep My Opt-Outs, that allows users to permanently opt-out of the tracking cookies from supported ad networks (including Google).
Keep My Opt-Outs is an extension for users who aren’t comfortable with personalization of the ads they see on the web. It’s a one-step, persistent opt-out of personalized advertising and related data tracking performed by companies adopting the industry privacy standards for online advertising.
Mozilla’s planned solution relies on using HTTP headers to tell both the website and ad network that the user wishes to opt-out. The ad network then serves non-personalized advertisements, and logs the user’s activity anonymously. Mozilla hopes to eventually make the header an industry standard, but at present the solution is still in the brain-storming stage.
“It’s important to reiterate that while our initial proposal does not represent a complete solution, this is one step of many for us to see if the header approach can work and confirm that it will provide our users a more nuanced, persistent tool for communicating privacy choices on the web,” — Alex Fowler, Mozilla
Using HTTP headers is a much “cleaner” approach in the long run, but will require a significant amount of cooperation between content providers. It’s likely that both companies will share ideas to achieve both a short-term and long-term solution, and help create a new industry standard to protect user’s privacy.
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