Not being evil is tougher than it looks. Following a spate of online privacy controversies, Google (which has long touted its "Don't be evil" mantra) and other web companies have agreed to install a "Do not track" feature in their browsers. The promise is meant to assure users of Google's Chrome browser (and its competitors) that they can surf the web without being tracked by advertisers, hundreds of whom have also pledged to honor these privacy requests. The move was welcomed by the Obama administration, which simultaneously unveiled a Privacy Bill of Rights designed to protect internet consumers. But will the "Do not track" button really work?
No. The initiative is destined to fail: The "Do not track" button is "bound to come up short," says Brennon Slattery at PCWorld. The "all-too-eager participation" of Google and other "major internet privacy violators" belies the fact that companies will find loopholes to continue tracking users. Even under the latest agreement, companies can track you for "market research." Doesn't that language "seem overly broad to you?"
"Universal 'Do not track' button: A recipe for disappointment"
Important progress is being made: Google's button, probably "a one-click check box easily accessible" on your browser, won't be perfect, says Rainey Reitman at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But this deal still "represents a powerful step forward." For instance, the agreement establishes new enforcement mechanisms. All 400 advertising companies participating in the deal are now accountable to the Federal Trade Commission for any infractions. That's nothing to sneeze at.
"White House, Google, and other advertising companies commit to supporting Do Not Track"
This is a calculated compromise: While consumers may have secured a victory at the expense of online advertisers, the industry also gained something "valuable," says Michelle Quinn at Politico. It now has more time to show Congress that it can "implement a credible" privacy-protection system of its own. The alternative, many advertisers worried, was a much harsher federal law that would have crimped ad revenue even further. The "Do not track" button may well be "a way for web companies to dodge" a bigger bullet.
"Is 'Do not track' a magic button?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Are there too many good shows on television?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is another sign of life in the GOP
- Comic-Con 2014: Everything we learned about Avengers 2, Batman v. Superman, and more
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
Subscribe to the Week