Monday, January 24, 2011
Today we’re making available Keep My Opt-Outs, which enables you to opt out permanently from ad tracking cookies. It’s available as an extension for download in Chrome.
Why have we developed this feature?
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission and others have expressed interest in a “Do Not Track” mechanism that could offer users a simple way to opt out of personalized advertising. Advertising companies that are members of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) already let you opt out of tracking for the purposes of personalizing advertisements, and many online advertisers and trade associations have also joined a major self-regulatory effort to enforce a uniform privacy icon for ads, as well as opt-out guidelines.
There are more than 50 companies that are members that offer opt outs via these programs, including the top 15 largest ad networks in the U.S. Some, like Google, enable you not only to opt out, but to tailor the personalization of ads by specifying what types of ads you’re most interested in seeing.
However, the industry has faced a recurring technical challenge with these opt-outs and controls. If you clear your browser’s cookies, all customized settings — including these opt-outs — are lost. Another challenge is that sometimes new companies offer opt-outs, so you’d have to check frequently to make sure you’re opted out of what you want. A better “Do Not Track” mechanism is a browser extension that means you can easily opt out of personalized advertising from all participating ad networks only once and store that setting permanently.
We’ve been working on addressing these issues for awhile. Nearly two years ago, we engineered a solution for Google’s ad system. We made available, for all major browsers, a downloadable browser plugin that enables you to permanently opt out of Google’s advertising cookie, even if you deleted all your browser’s cookies. We’ve also built granular cookie controls into Chrome directly, and integrated Adobe Flash Player storage management into these controls. We’ve also modified Chrome’s incognito mode to ensure that it applies to “Flash cookies” in addition to regular cookies.
Today we are building on this work, and that of others, by allowing you to permanently opt out of ad tracking from all companies that offer opt-outs through the industry self-regulation programs. Keep in mind that once you install the Keep My Opt-Outs extension, your experience of online ads may change: You may see the same ads repeatedly on particular websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you.
Importantly, we’ve designed the extension so that it should not otherwise interfere with your web browsing experience or website functionality. This new feature gives you significant control without compromising the revenue that fuels the web content that we all consume every day.
More to come
We’re working to make this feature available for other browsers, too. We’ve also decided to make the code for this extension available on an open-source basis, so that other developers can let us know if there’s a bug, or even extend the code’s capabilities if they want to. We’re excited by the speed of innovation in online privacy and look forward to seeing future developments.