IE, Firefox to Release 'Do Not Track' Add-Ons

Dennis Faas's picture

Mozilla and Google have both followed Microsoft's lead in giving users a chance to opt out of having their activity tracked by advertisers. But the voluntary schemes may not be effective enough to stave off government action.

The changes follow Federal Trade Commission (FTC) demands for both website and browser developers to make it easier for users to opt out of tracking. The call was designed to tackle fears that sites were abusing their ability to pass on details about what people do online to advertisers, allowing for better targeted advertisements, which typically command higher rates.

Microsoft responded last month by announcing that Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), which is currently in development, will allow users to set up a list of sites on which the browser would automatically block any sharing of details with third-parties. Users will either set up their own lists manually, or download lists produced by privacy groups that can be automatically updated.

Google Champions Self-Regulation

Google has now launched its own web browser extension (its version of an add-on or plug-in feature) for the Chrome browser known as Keep My Opt-Outs. It will block sharing by sites along the lines of the "Do Not Call" service for telephones.

According to Google, there are some downsides: it warns users will likely find the ads they do see will be less relevant to their needs, and that some advertisements will be repeated more often. (Source:

Mozilla Follows FTC Concept

Meanwhile, Mozilla is adding a similar feature that will be built-in to the Firefox browser. It will mean users can activate a setting to automatically send a "Do Not Track" message to every page they visit. This is the closest thing yet to the model suggested by the FTC. (Source:

While this will likely be the easiest of the three solutions for users to control, it's also got drawbacks. One is that it's an all-or-nothing approach, giving users no way of selecting particular sites to block (such as those known to abuse data sharing) while letting others operate. The other is that it is reliant on the website to be set up technically to recognize this signal, and for the owners to have made a policy decision to follow the request.

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