Mozilla, Google add 'Do Not Track' features to Web browsers

Google and Mozilla are both adding features to their Web browsers that will allow users to block advertisers from tracking their activities online.

Last month Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz challenged the browser industry to add the Do Not Track option to their browsers or face a potential legislative mandate to do so as part of the FTC's preliminary recommendations on consumer privacy.

Mozilla is taking the lead among Web firms in complying with the FTC's recommendation, according to a Sunday blog post from Mozilla global privacy and public-policy leader Alexander Fowler.

"The challenge with adding this to the header is that it requires both browsers and sites to implement it to be fully effective," Fowler wrote. "Mozilla recognizes the chicken and egg problem and we are taking the step of proposing that this feature be considered for upcoming releases of Firefox."

On Monday Google unveiled the Keep My Opt-Outs extension for its Chrome browser, which lets users permanently block ad-tracking cookies.

"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," wrote product managers Sean Harvey and Rajas Moonka.

"Although we are pleased that these companies are addressing ways for consumers to protect their privacy and personal information online, it is important to note that these announcements only reflect an ‘opt-out’ approach," said Jamie Steyer, CEO of the advocacy group Common Sense Media.

"What consumers — and especially kids — really need is an ‘opt-in’ approach to the collection and use of personal information."

Microsoft has previously said the next edition of Internet Explorer will include a feature that lets users block select sites or firms from tracking them online. The FTC is still seeking comment on their report, which has yet to be finalized. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is also working on draft legislation aimed at strengthening consumer privacy protections online.