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Google adds support for 'do not track' privacy feature

Google quietly slipped support for the Do Not Track (DNT) privacy setting into its latest Chrome developer build, released at the end of last week.

The option, which allows users to opt out of Web tracking for the purpose of targeted advertising, is still a work in progress, as All Things D pointed out. But DNT support could be an important step for the fast-growing Chrome browser.

Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla have already rolled DNT support into Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox, respectively.

By enabling the "DNT: 1" option in the browser, websites and advertisers are signaled that the user doesn't want to be followed.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a company spokesperson told All Things D that the search giant "undertook to honour an agreement on DNT that the industry reached with the White House early this year." "To that end we're making this setting visible in our Chromium developer channel, so that it will be available in upcoming versions of Chrome by year's end," the spokesperson continued.

Not everyone is thrilled with Google's move, though.

On the open-source Chromium blog, user ioerror criticised the new DNT support, saying that Chrome should not follow its peers and that that the new protocol doesn't go far enough to protect privacy.

"DNT creates a perverse view of user expectation in an attempt to punish scummy ad networks," the user wrote. "I don't want the Web's social norm to be somehow construed as consenting to tracking by default unless I send a special privacy requesting header."

Calling that "nonsense," the writer continued, "Silence isn't consent in other parts of life and it shouldn't be construed as consent on the Web."

The setting doesn't actually guarantee privacy on the Web, and could lure some browsers into a false sense of security. As the option reaches widespread use, it may become more apparent whether or not the anti-tracking standard needs to be tweaked.