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Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox unveil tools to block Web tracking by advertisers

The Web browsers are adding the do-not-track features to help protect users' privacy.

January 25, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox Web browsers are each gaining new features that will block advertisers from tracking Web surfing habits.

Chrome's utility, announced Monday, is called Keep My Opt-Outs and available now. Firefox's feature, announced Sunday, will be called Do Not Track and is under development.

The two tools to help protect users' privacy follow a Federal Trade Commission recommendation in December that all Web browsers should add do-not-track features.

Shortly after the FTC recommendation, Microsoft said its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 would have a tool that would enable users to create lists of websites they want or do not want tracking them.

Alex Fowler, Mozilla's technology and privacy officer, said in a blog post that Firefox's upcoming Do Not Track feature would be the nonprofit group's first step toward improving user privacy.

"When the feature is enabled and users turn it on, web sites will be told by Firefox that a user would like to opt-out of OBA [online behavioral advertising]," Fowler wrote. "We believe the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out mechanism than cookies or blacklists."

Google too announced its blocking tool in a blog post.

Sean Harvey and Rajas Moonka, two Google product managers, wrote that Keep My Opt-Outs would allow users to opt out of tracking by advertisers by using a downloadable browser extension that would allow users to defer personalized ads "from all participating ad networks only once and store that setting permanently."

Both Google and Mozilla's tracking blocking tools do, however, have a caveat.

The tools only apply to advertising companies that offer opt-out options. So far, advertisers have been slow to add such options themselves, although Google noted that the advertisers that were members of the Network Advertising Initiative offered such options, as do some Web advertising trade associations.

Web advertisers track which websites consumers visit online in large part to offer Web ads that would appeal to a user based on that person's surfing habits.

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