Among the recent “do not track” announcements by browser-makers Microsoft, Mozilla and Google, the approach taken by Google showed the least imagination and effort in the cause of consumer choice. Rather than enable simple global choices (like Mozilla), or make choices truly enforceable (like Microsoft), Google opted for a minor improvement to the status quo: a browser extension for Chrome that loads and protects opt-out cookies from the companies who participate in the self-regulatory initiative.
Because opt-out cookies promise to control only the targeting of ads, and not the collection of data, Google’s initiative can’t really be considered “do not track.” Even more limiting, Google’s approach only covers around 60 participating companies, leaving out out over 90 other companies that also offer opt-out cookies. Many of those non-compliant companies are considered “Certified Ad Networks” in Google’s ad exchange, which allows them to use behavioral targeting for ads across millions of websites in Google’s huge AdSense network. It is surprising that Google doesn’t feel it necessary to provide persistent opt-out coverage for each company that can use Google’s own ad tags to reach consumer browsers.
I have offered Google the free use of our own, more comprehensive list of opt-outs. In the mean time, we went ahead and revised Google’s open-source extension code to include the full list of companies. Our version is available on the Chrome download site, and we will update it over time as we add new tracking companies to our index. Since Google calls their extension, “Keep My Opt Outs,” we’re aptly naming ours “Keep MORE Opt Outs.”