Photo illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
A group representing Google and other Web behemoths announced Thursday that it will endorse a new "do-not-track" button as an industry response to the recent high-profile debate over Web users’ privacy rights.
The Digital Advertising Alliance, which repesents the companies, announced that the new button should be adopted and implemented within nine months. The new button, which would be embedded in most web browsers, doesn’t stop all Web tracking, however.
Instead, as the Wall Street Journal notes, "[t]he companies have agreed to stop using the data about people's Web browsing habits to customize ads, and have agreed not to use the data for employment, credit, health-care or insurance purposes. But the data can still be used for some purposes such as ‘market research’ and ‘product development’ and can still be obtained by law enforcement officers." The new privacy button also wouldn’t stop companies like Facebook from tracking users through "Like" buttons and similar features.
The move highlights recent controversy over Internet privacy. Last week, Google acknowledged that it had been circumventing the privacy settings of people using Apple's Web-browsing software on their iPhones, iPads and computers, but stopped the practice after being contacted by the WSJ.
The industry move also comes as the White House announced its own proposal Thursday for an Internet "bill of rights" that would give consumers greater online privacy protection and could give the government greater monitoring power for companies such as Google and Facebook, reports Reuters.
Meanwhile in California, mobile users are also getting a step-up in privacy. In an agreement with the California attorney general, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Research in Motion and HP—that’s every company that has a smartphone or tablet platform in the U.S., as Time notes—will have to follow new privacy policies for third-party mobile apps. These policies, applicable for apps like Path and Instagram, will warn users if their address books will be stored on the apps' servers or if their personal data will be shared with marketers.