Will Google's 'Do not track' button help?

The search king says it's serious about insuring users' privacy, but doubts persist.

By TheWeek.com Feb 24, 2012 5:26PM
Image: Couple looking at computer (© Corbis)Not being evil is tougher than it looks.

Following a spate of online privacy controversies, Google (GOOG) (which has long touted its "don't be evil" mantra) and other Web companies have agreed to install a "Do not track" feature in their browsers.

The promise is meant to assure users of Google's Chrome browser (and its competitors) that they can surf the Web without being tracked by advertisers, hundreds of whom have also pledged to honor these privacy requests. The move was welcomed by the Obama administration, which simultaneously unveiled a privacy bill designed to protect Internet consumers.

But will the "Do not track" button really work?

No. The initiative is destined to fail. The "Do not track" button is "bound to come up short," says Brennon Slattery at PCWorld. The all-too-eager participation of Google and other major Internet privacy violators belies the fact that companies will find loopholes to continue tracking users, Slattery adds. Even under the latest agreement, companies can track you for "market research."

Important progress is being made. Google's button, probably a one-click check box on your browser, won't be perfect, says Rainey Reitman at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But this deal still "represents a powerful step forward." For instance, the agreement establishes new enforcement mechanisms. All 400 advertising companies participating in the deal are now accountable to the Federal Trade Commission for any infractions. That's nothing to sneeze at.

This is a calculated compromise. While consumers may have secured a victory at the expense of online advertisers, the industry also gained something valuable, says Michelle Quinn at Politico. It now has more time to show Congress that it can implement a privacy-protection system of its own. The alternative, many advertisers worried, was a much harsher federal law that would have crimped ad revenue even further. The "Do not track" button may well be a way for Web companies to dodge a bigger bullet, she adds.

More from The Week:
Tags: GOOG
Feb 24, 2012 6:36PM

I went to Google's website to opt out of advertiser tracking - it worked for a couple of days then started back again! I feel like they are Cyber Stalking me! Maybe a class action lawsuit?



Feb 24, 2012 8:24PM
Is that a trick question? Do you really think they are going to stop tracking you? Its a diversionary tactic that will work until the next time they steal information or get caught violating someone else's privacy. They're politicians at heart and the only way to deal with Goog is to not use them at all.
Feb 25, 2012 10:23AM
Just signed up with Blekko search engine and closing up google.  Didn't like being fooled into their (and other sites) protest last month claiming that the gov't was interferring with our freedom and rights when it was THEIR rights to continue this attack on our privacy.  I signed up for that petition and now regret it.  I have this other "blocker"  Abine.com which I LOVE.  It blocks Everyone and it's free.  In 1 week, it blocked over 4,000 sites and trackers, phisers, facebook, all of them.  An invasion of privacy is just that and google's power and $$ is going to lose this fight. 
Feb 26, 2012 11:51AM
Switched to Bing a year ago and love it! Microsoft doesn't really need advertising and marketing $$$
Feb 27, 2012 1:28AM
Checkout http://donottrack.me

simple steps to clear all data collected about you. No need to wait for any button in any browser
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