Google quietly slips Do Not Track into Chrome

Privacy feature added to latest version of Chrome browser, but Google's not exactly shouting about it

Barry Collins
7 Nov 2012

Google has become the last of the major browser makers to add support for the Do Not Track system.

The feature - which has long been supported by rivals Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer - sends a signal to website publishers and advertisers that users do not wish their online habits to be monitored.

However, the system is only effective if supported by the website and advertisers, and adoption of Do No Track is far from universal among the behavioural advertising companies that it's largely designed to thwart.

The effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services respond

Many of those behavioural advertising firms are, of course, among Google's most lucrative clients, which might explain why the company isn't exactly embracing Do Not Track with gusto.

To turn on the feature, Google Chrome users have to go into the browser's settings menu, and then scroll right down to the bottom of the page and click on a small link to the Advanced Settings, from where the Do Not Track system can be activated. By comparison, Do Not Track is turned on by default in Internet Explorer 10.

A Google blog explaining the new features in version 23 of the Chrome browser doesn't make mention of the Do Not Track feature until the very end of the post, and even then questions its validity. "The effectiveness of such requests is dependent on how websites and services respond, so Google is working with others on a common way to respond to these requests in the future," the blog states.

Google has, however, further boosted privacy controls in the new version of Chrome. A click on the page's icon next to the URL in the address bar will now reveal a pop-up menu detailing which cookies are being used on the site and a series of user-permission controls specific to that site. This makes it possible to block individual sites from running plugins, pop-ups or using your location data, for example.

GPU acceleration

Among the other new features in Chrome 23 (yes, that's 23 "versions" in four years) is GPU acceleration for video on Windows PCs. "Dedicated graphics chips draw far less power than a computer's CPU, so using GPU-accelerated video decoding while watching videos can increase battery life significantly," Google's blog states.

The company claims its tests with a 1080p h.264 video clip running at 30fps on a Lenovo T400 laptop running Windows 7 resulted in a 25% improvement in battery life.

Google Chrome will update to the new version automatically, but users can force an update by clicking About Google Chrome in the settings menu.

Read more about: