Protect Your Online Privacy with Global Privacy Control (GPC)

One illustration of a man in a surfing pose on a mobile phone and another illustration of a man sitting at his computer.
One illustration of a man in a surfing pose on a mobile phone and another illustration of a man sitting at his computer.
Illustration by DuckDuckGo.

We recently introduced Global Privacy Control (GPC). The idea of GPC is that Internet users can enable a setting in their browsers or mobile devices that alerts websites and other online services to not share or sell their data. Major publishers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times, are already supporting GPC. You can install the privacy-tech-lab’s browser extension OptMeowt (for Chrome) to send GPC signals to all or some websites you visit. OptMeowt will also place opt out cookies in your browser to opt you out of services that have not yet implemented GPC but respect opt out cookies per the programs of the Interactive Advertising Bureau or Digital Advertising Alliance.

You may ask, why not just use an ad or a tracking blocker? Well, we believe that making use of opt out rights should not rest on self-help measures that individual users may or may not take. Especially, such blockers may not always work reliably. You may also wonder, whether there was not a Do Not Track (DNT) setting already available a while back — and you would be absolutely spot on. But here is the thing, services were not legally required to follow the DNT signals they received, and, consequently, very few did. But the situation is different now. For example, the Regulations to the California Consumer Privacy Act require that automated opt out signals from browsers must be respected (§ 999.315(c)).

We still have a lot of work to do. In the following weeks and months we will continue to further develop and roll out GPC. To that end, we are following a two-pronged roadmap: (1) we are moving forward in the W3C Privacy Community Group with standardizing GPC and, in parallel, (2) we are continuing to sign up new participating organizations and implementers. If you are interested, the OptMeowt source code is publicly available to illustrate how to implement frontend code to send GPC signals. A sample backend implementation is available as well. Whether you are a user, publisher, browser vendor, tech company, privacy organization or other stakeholder, we want to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch

Press coverage and other mentions of our work are available. If you liked this post, learn more about our work on web and mobile app privacy in the Global Privacy Control group and privacy-tech-lab.

Written by

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Wesleyan University

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