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Web Browser Companies Agree to 'No-Track' Button

A security guard answers the phone at the reception counter of a Google office. (File Photo)

A security guard answers the phone at the reception counter of a Google office. (File Photo)

A coalition of Internet companies, including U.S.-based Google, has agreed to support a "do-not-track" button being installed in Web browsers to help protect the privacy of computer users around the world.

For more than a year, the Internet browser companies had resisted embedding the button. But slowly, various browsing companies have adopted the "do-not-track" feature, including Mozilla with its Firefox browser, Microsoft with Internet Explorer and Apple with its Mountain Lion operating system.

On Thursday, Google, the world's most popular search engine, said it, too, would join a broad coalition of 400 technology, advertising and media companies to support the anti-tracking effort. Google's announcement came hours before President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass legislation defining a "privacy bill of rights" for Internet users.

Obama said the privacy standards are necessary because he said "consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy."

The U.S.-based Internet industry, fueled annually by nearly $40 billion in online advertising, has been caught in several privacy disputes as advanced technology has been created that can track users' viewing habits. Most disputes have involved claims that the browser companies have deceptively collected information about which Internet sites people have visited and then used it to customize advertising sent to users or for other commercial purposes.

Under the new agreement, the Internet companies have pledged within the next nine months to begin stopping customizing advertising or to use the data for employment, credit, health care or insurance purposes. They still would be able to use tracking information for broader "market research" or "product development" purposes.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.