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Google Adds To Mozilla's Push For 'Do Not Track' 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the lot-of-progress-for-one-day dept.
AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "In a morning blog post, Google announced the release of a Chrome plug-in called 'Keep My Opt-Outs,' which hopes to block all tracking cookies. Interestingly, it is released as open-source with the hopes that it will gain quick deployment on non-Chrome browsers and find a robust foothold against ads. The story is also covered at Computerworld, which has broader insight into the issue, looking at Google, Mozilla and Firefox, and seems to indicate more rapid change is looming — potentially from the FCC itself."
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Google Adds To Mozilla's Push For 'Do Not Track'

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  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by joocemann (1273720)

    ... I love cookies!

    Cookie cookie cookie!

    NOM NOM NOM!

  • Didn't they undergo a massive cave-in to special interests?

    • Didn't they undergo a massive cave-in to special interests?

      No, to call it a cave-in would imply that they were going to do something different before pressure was brought to bear.

      • A wall of Balsa Wood is still a wall. I'd like to think that for twelve seconds they were considering the right thing before saying "Lol right."

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:22PM (#34988192)

      Didn't they undergo a massive cave-in to special interests?

      We can argue all day about that, but it doesn't really matter since the organization that is putting on pressure for do-not-track mechanisms is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), not the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that recently adopted open internet ("net neutrality") rules that have been panned by some neutrality advocates as "worse than nothing" in terms of restricting ISP abuses and by some ISPs and Tea Party types as a totalitarian takeover of the internet by government.

      • You get credit for an Informative reply. Seems our summaries are only hitting 70% accuracy lately.

        Meanwhile I really don't know what to think if we get a war among agencies where say the FTC is awesome and the FCC caves. I'd like to think the whole government, per elected administration, has the same "mood".

        • Seems our summaries are only hitting 70% accuracy lately.

          I have not noticed such a dramatic improvement in accuracy of summaries.

  • I know, lots of tech implementation problems, but Google's fast turn-around indicates that someone between Mozilla and Google is on the same page.

    • Re:Fast Turn-around (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Un pobre guey (593801) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:58PM (#34987146) Homepage
      They are not on the same page. Blocking cookies is pointless. Robust all-knowing behavior tracking occurs on the server side. By implementing a header flag, Mozilla is ahead of the game. That flag covers any kind of tracking currently used or to be deployed in the future by asserting a generic end-user request always and uniformly. Blocking cookies addresses an obsolete tracking mechanism.
      • >> Blocking cookies addresses an obsolete tracking mechanism.

        So that's why I don't see any cookie on my system at all!!??!?

        • Obsolete doesn't mean nobody uses it. Companies that don't have wide ranging access to user behavior across multiple sites on their backend have to use cookies. People who have content linking back to their servers placed on pages across many domains can do such tracking. Hint hint.
          • Cookies aren't obsolete because they're persistent within the browser despite a changing IP address. A login cookie on your laptop will still work when you bring it into the coffee shop. So will tracking cookies.
      • And if you'd RTFA, you'd see that this plugin has nothing to do with "blocking cookies". In fact, it does entirely the opposite.

        • OK, "focusing on cookies," "dealing with cookies," "working as if cookies were the most important tracking mechanism." TFA [google.com] seems to refer only to cookies.
      • By implementing a header flag, Mozilla is ahead of the game.

        Sure, in the sense that Mozilla's approach might have much broader applicability in the future. But, a browser sending a header that no server existing does anything with acheives nothing.

        "Keep My Opt-Outs", OTOH, supports an existing industry-standard opt-out mechanism that lots of existing advertisers use (and more are adopting.)

        Mozilla's approach does exactly nothing now, though in theory, hosts could add support for it in the future.

        Google's "Keep My Opt Outs" works with the mechanism by which providers

        • Not true. The big behavior trackers no longer rely on cookies and haven't for some time. Cookies are a red herring, which is the point I am flogging.
          • Not true. The big behavior trackers no longer rely on cookies and haven't for some time.

            I don't think you understand how the extension works. Its not a cookie blocker, its a cookie store that doesn't get erased when you erase your cookies -- specifically, it stores cookies for the cookie-based opt-out system that the big behavioral advertising providers are using.

            One problem with this system without an extension like this is that clearing your cookies will clear your opt-outs. This system preserves the opt-out cookies (and ads them for new trackers as they become part of the system) so that yo

            • Gaaahhhh! After re-reading it several times, it appears that you are right. It is an "opt-out cookie" management mechanism. It looks like the new aspects are that they now include management of other companies' opt-out cookies, presumably based on a list of known such cookies, that would have to be maintained by someone. It is similar to the Mozilla idea in that it is persistent, but I like that Mozilla's method is 1) generic, and 2) ever-present. Both mechanisms would rely on behavior trackers' voluntary o
              • It is similar to the Mozilla idea in that it is persistent, but I like that Mozilla's method is 1) generic, and 2) ever-present. Both mechanisms would rely on behavior trackers' voluntary or enforced compliance.

                Mozilla's mechanism is better in the long term (assuming people start supporting it on the backend), but Google's mechanism leverages something the big behavioral advertising firms are already supporting, but makes it simple to manage, so it works well right now, whereas sending Mozilla's do-not-track header right now will do nothing.

      • by McGiraf (196030)

        Just like the evil bit protects us against present and future network attacks.

      • Let's say they are on different pages of the same book called Pro-Privacy. I freely agree some ideas may be technical disasters, however they create a "mind-space" in our world of flying headlines that indicates a direction. A "Mind-space" of "Let's block all the tracking stuff" is at least in the right direction in my view, even if it's only as actually relevant as that page describing the typeface chosen.

        • My point is that I do not believe that is what's really going on. I can't help but suspect that many companies are just throwing us a stale bone to distract us, and will leverage cleverly written terms of use to continue behavioral tracking in more sophisticated ways.
    • I think it's a good idea in general, to provide the option to not be tracked. Q: "Why are we doing this?" A: "We recognize that some users are uncomfortable with the personalization of ads that they see on the web."

      I don't mind personalized ads. Just yesterday I was looking at Banquet Homestyle Meals, and about an hour later, slashdot sent me a personalized ad to the same thing, on sale, at Meijers. It was one of those rare cases where I was glad to see the advertisement, since it was showing me what I

      • It was one of those rare cases where I was glad to see the advertisement

        Isn't that the point of all this? That it's the rare exception that tracking is useful to anybody?

      • Really awesome personalized ads can be fun. But I'd want to have explicitly turned on a button that says "I want to visit Minority Report for an hour". Then you can play in their playground with Meijer results, the pizza shop down the street, etc etc. But for it never to stop, it's really creepy.

    • I know, lots of tech implementation problems, but Google's fast turn-around indicates that someone between Mozilla and Google is on the same page.

      This isn't a response to Mozilla.

      Both Google's actions with "Keep My Opt Outs" and Mozilla's "Do Not Track" header are responses to the FTC urging the industry to adopt do not track mechanisms (with the strong implication that, absent sufficient non-mandated progress in this direction, mandatory regulations would be imposed.)

      Google already provided a similar mechanism for all major browsers to opt-out of Google's own tracking; the new extension -- initially available in Chrome but, per Google's announcement

  • maybe all our cries for privacy are having some effect.
    • maybe all our cries for privacy are having some effect

      No. They've probably though of another way to track our usage and the cookies don't matter anymore.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      In other news...

      Google CIO submits orders to increase their tracking database by 1 bit per user.
  • Fast forward (Score:3, Insightful)

    by serano (544693) * on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:43PM (#34986928)
    Why don't we just skip to the part where everyone has enabled this feature.
    • "Each browser configuration consists of a unique creative work of customizing settings by that particular user, and undue tracking of those unique specs consists in a copyright violation to be subject to the rates of Thommas-Rasset at $750 per tracked copy per site per click."

    • "Why don't we just skip to the part where everyone has enabled this feature."

      Why don't we scrap the idea and have opt-IN tracking instead. You know, like how spam is UNSOLICITED stuff? Anything less on websites represents a loss of rights from what we have with email -- and that's pretty dire already.

  • by nsanders (208050) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:44PM (#34986936) Homepage

    who pioneered use of the first persistent cookie (set to expire in 2038, I believe?)

  • Getting some of your info tracked is not all bad. I could see where it leaves technical specs of your computer and begins to geolocate you without your permission or cross-reference you with social networks etc... Buut, at the same time none of us likes to see advertisements that flash telling you to punch a monkey after taking some Viagra. In an ideal world, you would see LESS advertisements if advertisement blockers didn't exist, and you would see more relevant ads that would benefit you from clicking i
    • by jappleng (1805148)
      I didn't read my first sentence while revising (strange I know right?) I didn't mean that geolocate you without permission or cross-referencing would be a good thing. I meant the complete opposite and getting some technical specs like browser info, if javascript is installed, etc... That shouldn't be a problem for anyone realistically if it's kept anonymous.
    • (Humor)

      Hi jappleng. Your post suggests you like geotracking.

      BEGIN AD: Did you know the KnightRider edition GPS actually used brand new prompts by the same voice actor as the original series? End Ad:

      .
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      .
      .
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      .
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      .
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      .

      P.S. Your actual article starts here. So long to your ideal world.

      • by jappleng (1805148)
        lol I know you were kidding but at the same time I don't know if you read my reply stating that I didn't mean that at all :X
  • by captaindomon (870655) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:49PM (#34987014)
    Is this just another part of the battle with Adobe, who owns Omniture and competes with Google Analytics?
    • Link for Netscape and Mozilla SeaMonkey users:
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/seamonkey/addon/ghostery/ [mozilla.org]

    • This already exists in a better form: the "clear all cookies" option in Firefox (and similar options in other decent browsers).

      If you dump *all* cookies every day, you aren't subject to whether or not the web programmer chooses to honor the html do-not-track tag or not.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        That isn't a reasonable solution. For one thing they're still able to track you within that day, and for another it can be challenging to figure out which cookie you've blocked is causing problems with the current page and why it's needed.

        What we really need is something in place to require companies to have permission before they set a cookie, a statement about the use and a ban on them trying to cram it on the end user.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Or how about just randomising the data in the cookies so they look valid but actually fill the marketer's database with rubbish. Maybe randomly change the HTTP headers too, e.g. making them look like requests from a proxy on behalf of a random IP address. Similar to those auto-form-fillers used against spam-advertised sites.

          If you make the marketing data worthless they will actively try to filter you out. Works much better than a system advertise have to opt-in to because I can't see many non-US companies g

  • by wiresquire (457486) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:53PM (#34987080) Journal

    Does this plug-in/add-on also stop all tracking of Google properties?

    Not just the google ads, but also all those other google sites like oh, I don't know, googleapis, youtube etc?

    Just because they're not serving ads doesn't mean that they don't or can't track you.

    • Just because they're not serving ads doesn't mean that they don't or can't track you.

      Likewise, just because they're not setting cookies doesn't mean that they don't or can't track you.
    • Does this plug-in/add-on also stop all tracking of Google properties?

      It doesn't really have anything to do with Google properties. Its about behavioral tracking that supports personalized advertising regardless of the provider (the new feature in this is that it isn't limited to Google -- Google has for years had a tool for all major browsers, not just Chrome, that did the same thing for Google ads tracking.)

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:53PM (#34987082)

    So, Google, a company that makes its money selling ad space, is distributing software to help block advertising? That seems either incredibly counter-intuitive, or incredibly cynical ("no one will use it except people who know how to do it anyway, so why not get some good press"). It'll be interesting to see which it really is, but I'm going to have to lean towards cynical on this one for the time being (call me cynical...).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      That seems either incredibly counter-intuitive, or incredibly cynical ("no one will use it except people who know how to do it anyway, so why not get some good press").

      Its not only good press and taking advantage of the fact that people are lazy and won't do it ... It also gives them an easy bit of legal help.

      If they make a bunch of tools available to protect your privacy then you don't have nearly as much room to bitch about the tracking since you do have a way to limit the tracking.

      Second, if no one uses

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      There is some tracking that can't be blocked, unless you use an anonymizer, proxy or something like that, like rough geographic location of the visitor based on IP address. And probably most of the interesting results come from that way.

      Anyway, could be people that are interested in being tracked so getting ads targetting them. That was the bet of personalized ads in gmail, if you must have ads, better that have a chance of being interesting for you, and not be a waste of time, screen space and bandwidth.

    • So, Google, a company that makes its money selling ad space, is distributing software to help block advertising?

      Nope, this software does not (and does not claim to) do anything to "block advertising".

      It blocks behavioral tracking which supports personalizing advertising, which means that when using it, the ads you see will not be personalized based on tracking you, but you'll still get just as many ads, they'll just be generic rather than personalized based on behavior.

      Google has provided a durable opt-out of this kind for years with their own advertising (which is supported on multiple browsers), this new tool exten

    • by lonecrow (931585)
      Well does google need to track? Don't they make the lions share of their revenue from adSense on their search results pages? They don't need to track you to know that your searching for "treatments for crabs". They just show ads relevant to your search.
  • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:54PM (#34987088) Homepage Journal

    You think your cookies and tracking are harmless, or even good, but as you can see, very powerful backlashes form which will hurt everyone because you abused your privelege, and cross-site cookies tracking is a privelege. I understand the need for advertising tracking to improve the value of the ad to the ad buyer and to me, the ad "consumer". But considering it's becoming a hodge-podge and used to make people very uncomfortable, there was an inevitible push back.

    You lost the Javascript/flash wars because you allowed abusive banner ads. Sure, you got a quick hit for a year or two, but for how long until AdBlocker has become de rigeur for the heavy Internet browser? So by trying to be too flashy and too in your face, you lost all right to use Javascript/flash for your ads.

    Now you are losing the cookie battle too.

    Just try not to be evil and respect people's wishes. Is it really that hard? Really?

    • You talk as if there was a single advertiser. The situation seems more like a tragedy-of-the-commons [wikipedia.org]. Everyone might start out respecting it, but because the cost to an individual advertiser violating it is less than the benefit, one inevitably does this, and more follow.
      • by vux984 (928602)

        You talk as if there was a single advertiser.

        Its pretty close actually.

        Have you looked at the numbers.

        In 2009, in the US, Google had 72.1% of online ads. One company is almost three out four ads.
        Yahoo, Microsoft, and Ask.com had another 17%, 5.5% and 3.7% respectively.

        Adding all 4 up is 98.3% of online ads.

    • by tukang (1209392)
      Instead of using adblockers, how about boycotting content that comes with annoying ads? Content owners are people, too, and you're not respecting their wishes when you block ads.
      • Instead of using adblockers, how about boycotting content that comes with annoying ads? Content owners are people, too, and you're not respecting their wishes when you block ads.

        I don't use an ad blocker; just NoScript. But you also missed the point: people resort to these measures because web advertising has become abusive because they desperately want attention.

        How often do you see people cutting out ads from a magazine or newspaper because they don't want to look at ads? Even though an Ad Blocker is a lot less work, it still takes some effort to find and install an AdBlocker. People seek them out because they don't want so Javascript ad screaming "HELLO!!?? HELLO!!!??" or ope

        • > people resort to these measures because web advertising has become
          > abusive because they desperately want attention.

          I'm just a market force. You want a market mechanism? Equilibrium = ads + abuse + ad networks drive by attacks - ad blocker - web bug blocker - flash blocker + advertiser rants + advertiser counter tactics - ridicule - Element Hiding Helper - capitulation + flailing - demoralize = Detente? Bring on the sixth republic.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        Instead of using adblockers, how about boycotting content that comes with annoying ads? Content owners are people, too, and you're not respecting their wishes when you block ads.

        I don't give a shit about their wishes. The Web was around before the advertisers were, and one of the fundamental principles of the Web was that you could view the content as you wished, whether that meant not loading pictures, disabling JavaScript, or whatever. Blocking ads is no different.

        If the "content owners" don't like the game, they can take their ball and play somewhere else.

    • by Mana Mana (16072)

      I've been wondering or a while why there is not an AdBlocker-cookie-blocker? Subscriptions, ya know. Like who doesn't block doubleclick.net|com, bluekai, etc. But I don't follow this. So, a la Ghostery, AdBlocker cookie-cutter developer where art thou?

      • by Uzuri (906298)

        There are -- the addon CookieSafe is one (lets you block all by default, allow by domain, subdomain, etc for session or temporarily).

        Running that side by side with NoScript and RequestPolicy makes for a very interesting browsing experience, though. Kinda like trying to open someone else's combo lock.

        Oh, and it doesn't do anything for Flash LSOs or other tracking methods, of course.

    • by berbo (671598)
      Yes it is really that hard.

      Please buy my shit now!

  • by barchibald (207846) <benNO@SPAMunsaltedbutter.com> on Monday January 24, 2011 @05:58PM (#34987138)

    If I were google, I'd be pretty psyched to be the only ad provider who can triangulate from search to ad delivery. Thats a real coup in terms of unique analytics for them. Between every page that has their ads on it, every site that uses their site analytics and every request that has google.com as the launch point (and access to http-referer information across all of these....it'd be hard to imagine an analytics company coming close to competing.

    There are many more desserts than just cookies.

  • What if they didn't need cookies anymore? I'm sure if enough people with an agenda to get rich(er) got together they could track anyone and everyone...given enough resources and 'affiliates'. I never logged no-script blocks, but doesn't seem too implausible to get a small number of ad providers together to cooperate for massive data gathering gain.

    I don't know. All I do know is when Mega-Corps bring me flowers and tell me they're my buddy, I tend to look around to see what's in the other hand.

  • So, a company that became huge and rich from advertising and trying to "judge" us based on our clicks is now acting like They [google.com] don't do it? Unless you are actually told about stuff like this [google.com] then it is safe to say that Google is no better. I mean, come on, look at all the tracking cookies and stuff it uses, and you have to search for a way to disable them, and how many people will do that? That is like me being a bank robber, and then telling others to not rob banks and also tell some banks that ONLY if t
    • So, a company that became huge and rich from advertising and trying to "judge" us based on our clicks is now acting like They [google.com] don't do it? Unless you are actually told about stuff like this [google.com] then it is safe to say that Google is no better. I mean, come on, look at all the tracking cookies and stuff it uses, and you have to search for a way to disable them, and how many people will do that? That is like me being a bank robber, and then telling others to not rob banks and also tell some banks that ONLY if they talk to me ahead of time, I will not rob from them.

      I tell you what Google, how about you stop using them yourself before you act like you are a huge activist behind getting rid of them.

      Google isn't saying that cookies are bad. They are saying some people don't like or want them, and providing a tool to block them if desired. There's no holier-than-thou going on here.

    • So, a company that became huge and rich from advertising and trying to "judge" us based on our clicks is now acting like they don't do it?

      No, they aren't. As noted in the blog post announcing the "Keep My Opt Outs" extensions, Google, two years ago, "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."

      They aren't pretending they don't do anything. They are quite open that they do it by default, they provided a cookie-based mechanism to opt-out of it, and they later provided a mechanism for durab

  • I am not convinced that "opting out of behavioral advertising" is the same as "do not track". The page describing the opt-out initiative [aboutads.info] contains the following sentence:

    In some cases, automated systems will continue to collect other data about browser visits but that data will no longer be used to deliver interest-based advertising to the user.

    This suggests that tracking might still happen, but the ads served will not be based on the collected information if you opt out. That does not sound like much of an improvement in online privacy.

  • Is this going to affect sites that use a cookie to maintain session state? If so, let me be the first to say: No. Thank. You. I cannot afford to reengineer all my sites.
  • With me, that makes 3. a strong push for privacy. add yourselves too, so that it will make 4, 5, and n.

    this post, may or may not contain sarcasm. i may or may not be giving 2 cents to anyone that may prove that way, or otherwise. if the world is in the eye of a fish, then it means we have a problem. now beat it. there is nothing to see here - all mj impressions are done, all britney spears songs are sung, all ships are sunk, all your bases are owned, we shall never flag or flail. we shall fight on the ro
    • by Elbereth (58257)

      You finally used a capital letter!

      Congratulations! Now, if we can just make that a habit...

      • by unity100 (970058)
        all the troubles on the planet will vanish when we all do that wont they. (following text is all in capital letters) down with grammar nazizm !! down with old people pushing it on young people !!!
  • Opt out of major advertising networks: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp [networkadvertising.org] Opt out of doubleclick/google ads: http://optout.doubleclick.net/cgi-bin/optoutgoogle.pl [doubleclick.net]
  • I seem to be on a bit of a Privoxy [privoxy.org] obsession of late. It comes and goes like a biorhythm. Privoxy goes a long way to help prevent tracking...like tracking by Google, youtube, blogspot, ytimg...oh wait, they're all one and the same.
  • Having a flag in the header is nice. But the real question is, would Firefox (and Chrome) add "no signature/generic signature" mode, where headers sent out to the server get synchronized to the lowest common denominator for a large set of users?
    You know, so that browser can't be sufficiently identified by the headers alone. And http://panopticlick.eff.org would say "Browser plugin details: one in 2", and "User Agent" one in, say, 10. Plus the heck with system fonts.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      But the real question is, would Firefox (and Chrome) add "no signature/generic signature" mode, where headers sent out to the server get synchronized to the lowest common denominator for a large set of users?

      How would you determine what is a login cookie for authentication to a website veres an advertising tracking cookie? They can look identical and even have the exact same field names.

  • Don't Ghostery/Beef Taco for Firefox do the same thing? Or did I misread something?

  • ...maybe I'm just ignorant on this but doesn't NoScript do this already by blocking the sites period? (if you choose)

  • First time poster, long time reader. I have been wondering why more people don't poison cookies rather than blocking them. Its relatively easy to open the sql database that firefox uses and replace numbers and strings with random similar values, I'm sure it could be automated. It seems like it would be better to make tracking companies data worthless, rather than simply blocking it. I wonder if there is a way to trade tracking cookies (obviously some cookies shouldn't be shared)?
  • "Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 1,379,292 tested so far. Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 20.4 bits of identifying information." -Panopticlick

    I'm thinking opt-out of tracking by cookies, etc., is a throwaway. Google et al no longer need those technologies.
    • "Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 1,379,292 tested so far. Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 20.4 bits of identifying information." -Panopticlick

      I'm thinking opt-out of tracking by cookies, etc., is a throwaway. Google et al no longer need those technologies.

      Having a unique fingerprint isn't bad if the fingerprint is also dynamic.

      Every site finds my browser fingerprint to be unique -- It changes as a function (SHA1 HMAC) of the current website, time of day, and a secret salt. Fields are re-ordered yet still contain the same information, along with a bit of Base64 in the comments (parenthesis). A few unneeded and duplicate/renamed fonts are "available" or not, Screen resolution is also fudged slightly, not enough to break layouts.

      The real downfall is Flash, Jav

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