It’s always been possible to avoid targeted ads or to hide your Web browsing history. It’s just never been easy. You had to clear out your Web browser cookies on a regular basis, learn how to get rid of the more persistent Adobe Flash cookies; and use applications like Tor to make sure you left no tracks behind you on the beach of the Internet. Now, Google—yes, Google—is offering a new Chrome extension, Keep My Opt-Outs, that will keep many major online advertising networks from following you.
In doing this, Google is following the lead of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which recently declared that “For every business, privacy should be a basic consideration (PDF Link)–-similar to keeping track of costs and revenues, or strategic planning.” To make that happen most of the major Web browsers, including Firefox and Internet Explorer are getting ready to release similar “Do not track” features.
Cynic that I am, my worry about all these schemes is that they require the Web sites and advertising networks to go along with them to work. The FTC can talk all it wants about the importance of privacy, but the Web financial wheels go around and around thanks to the engine of personal information.