Monday, January 24, 2011

Keep your opt-outs

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.


Michael Schmidlen said...

Why limit this to just advertisers? Why NOT allow users to opt out of sharing any/all of their meta data? Will this also work for mobile too?

Harrison said...

@Michael - Great idea, I would love to see that made possible. Perhaps this idea would be better implemented as its own extension.

wqoq said...

I would think the Adblock extension would be far more effective, as it stops the connection outright, rather than trusting something on the other end to "do the right thing".

Speeddymon said...

To simply answer all questions above:

You can't please everyone all at once.

To further simplify that:

You can't please everyone.

Adblock relies on a constantly changing blacklist of sites known to serve not only tracking cookies, but also drive-by downloads. Keeping such a huge blacklist in memory serves much less purpose (resource-wise) when you can retain your (much smaller) opt-out settings for the biggest ad networks across browser sessions and even after clearing cookies.

madjon said...


wqoq said...

The few extra resources that Adblock uses for its "huge" blacklist is more than made up for by all the annoying ads and unwanted content it blocks. I much prefer the idea that these ad sites don't even know I exist to begin with, rather than putting faith in them to follow through on what's essentially a promise.

Tim Acheson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Acheson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Acheson said...

Who cares about the billions of companies who rely on advertising revenues to pay salaries and finance the content that we all enjoy? As long as Google creates another positive PR story. ;)

[Apologies for the multiple posts; Blogger doesn't provide very clear confirmation when a comment has been submitted.]

Greg said...

How is this different from Abine TACO?

Pablo Contreras R. said...

Will this also stop Google Analytics tracking those users visits or it will work only for advertisement purposes?

Robert Z. said...

As an attorney who protects the privacy interests of its clients, I believe this is a step in the right direction. Of course there are tools (e.g., Peerblock, JonDo, etc.) that protect an internet user's activities better than others, but I am happy Google, Inc. and the other companies are taking steps to protect its users' privacy interests.

-Rob Cashman, Owner
Cashman Law Firm, PLLC

Troy Vogel said...

Too Little, too late.

How are we to trust a feature like this when everyone knows...everyone KNOWS, your business depends on tracking our every move.

Troy Vogel said...