Noticed by All Things Digital earlier this week, the development team behind Google Chrome has added the ‘Do Not Track’ privacy setting in the most recent Canary version of the Web browser. Based off the release schedule of prior Chrome product launches, the privacy option will be available to all Chrome users before the end of the year after passing through the development and beta phases. While Google did agree to launch support for the ‘Do Not Track’ initiative earlier this year, the Chrome development team has been extremely slow in adding the feature to the browser. Alternatively, Mozilla added support for the feature in Firefox during early 2011 and Apple added the ‘Do Not Track’ privacy setting to Safari 6. In addition, Microsoft took the feature a step further and enabled the ‘Do Not Track’ function within Internet Explorer 10 without requiring the user to turn it on.
Regarding the addition of the ‘Do Not Track’ feature within Chrome, Google director of global communications Rob Shilkin stated “We undertook to honor an agreement on DNT that the industry reached with the White House early this year. To that end we’re making this setting visible in our Chromium developer channel, so that it will be available in upcoming versions of Chrome by year’s end.”
In order to enable the feature in Chrome, users must open up Settings and click the Advanced Settings link at the bottom of the page to open up the section that contains the ‘Do Not Track’ check box.
Once the setting has been enabled, the browser adds a section of code to the request header when loading up a new Web page. Assuming that the third-party site respects the user’s wishes regarding tracking and privacy, the site will stop tracking the user’s site usage. However, site owners and advertisers will ultimately be responsible for halting all forms of tracking. Hypothetically, anyone expecting the setting to protect them from all forms of user tracking could be lulled into a false sense of security if third parties don’t honor the setting at all.
In a related story this week, Roy Fielding, an Apache co-founder, has released a patch for Apache that completely ignores the ‘Do Not Track’ setting specifically from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10 Web browser.
Indicating that Microsoft is violating the ‘Do Not Track’ standard by turning on the setting by default, Fielding stated “The only reason DNT exists is to express a non-default option. It does not protect anyone’s privacy unless the recipients believe it was set by a real human being, with a real preference for privacy over personalization. Microsoft deliberately violates the standard.“
Fielding continued “The decision to set DNT by default in IE10 has nothing to do with the user’s privacy. Microsoft knows full well that the false signal will be ignored, and thus prevent their own users from having an effective option for DNT even if their user’s want one. You can figure out why they want that. If you have a problem with it, choose a better browser.” According to W3Techs, Apache is being utilized by nearly two-thirds of sites on the Internet included highly popular sites such as YouTube, Apple, Craigslist and Wikipedia.