Google Building Browser Plug-In To Protect Consumer Privacy

by , Mar 21, 2010, 6:33 PM
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Google is working on a browser plug-in that allows consumers to block being counted when landing on a Web site that monitors visits with Google Analytics. The Mountain View, Calif. company's engineers continue to test and finalize the function.

Sitting in the crossroads, Google needs to support advertisers, investors and consumers. The obligation to support advertisers and shareholders resides in the ability to develop tools that provide data and ad targeting. But to succeed, Google must become a good corporate citizen and give consumers a method to opt-out and protect their privacy.

Google engineers have been working on the plug-in during the past year and plans to make it globally available in the coming weeks, according to Amy Chang, group product manager at Google Analytics. She says the search engine takes privacy very seriously and will continue to provide people with more choices.

"Though Google Analytics does not track personally identifiable information, the plug-in will give users the choice to fully opt-out of sending any information back to Analytics," Chang says. "We're constantly working to enhance the balance between privacy options for users, while providing advertisers with valuable and actionable data to improve their Web sites."

Some wonder whether Google's decision to provide a method for consumers to opt-out of the free application that collects Web site traffic information and marketing effectiveness will lead the parade of others, such as Omniture and Webtrends.

Experts who have told marketers for years that data enables them to determine the best features, functions and content on the site are scratching their heads. Publishers have begun to move away from relying on clicks as a metric to sell ads on their Web site. And while there's a valid concern, Forrester Research analyst Joe Stanhope says tools already exist if consumers want to stop Web sites from Web analytics tools to stop their activity on the Web.

People can lock down their activity on the Web to disable browser cookies and turn off JavaScript tracking, Stanhope says. "These tools are available, yet Web analytics and Web measurement tools have marched on," he says. "Most people say they care, but don't seem to care that much. Of all the privacy violations and concerns, getting tracked on a Web site is not the biggest deal. But then Google analytics doesn't track personally identifiable information."

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