For the last few years, specifically since legislators and privacy advocates have been keeping a close eye on behavioral advertising practices, browser makers have been making strides toward giving users control over whether and to what extent their browsing habits are tracked. To that end, most have installed their own do-not-track mechanisms. They allow users to opt out of cookie collection and other means of tracking online behavior.
It makes sense, and to those less-technically inclined (like me) it seems to be a simple fix. But for as long as privacy advocates and legislators have been asking about it, observers have noted that not only browser makers but advertisers and third parties that make use of the data collected on Web browsers need to agree on what do-not-track means. And apparently we're not any closer to that consensus now than we were at the beginning.
In recent days, according to Mashable, Apple and Microsoft have discovered that Google is working around the built-in privacy controls in their respective browsers to collect information on user Web activity without users' knowledge. Microsoft Vice President of Internet Explorer Dean Hachamovitch said:
We've found that Google bypasses the P3P Privacy Protection feature in IE. The result is similar to the recent reports of Google's circumvention of privacy protections in Apple's Safari Web browser, even though the actual bypass mechanism Google uses is different.
He also advised IE users to update to IE 9 to protect against similar circumvention in the future.
Google says its browser workarounds are aimed at giving users the functionality they expect from the web in 2012.
Is it possible for the two sides to come to an agreement on these issues without government intervention? Or are the two ideologies just too different? Unfortunately, I suspect the latter.