Security vendor AVG Technologies is providing customers with the option of keeping their browsing private from prying websites and advertising networks.
The Amsterdam-based company introduced a product update that adds a do-not-track option to AVG's security suites. The feature gives users control over who follows them on the web.
Ad networks and websites often use tracking cookies and other techniques in an attempt to deliver advertising people may find useful, based on the sites they are visiting. The practices have led to a flood of privacy violations that convinced the Federal Trade Commission to ask Congress Monday to pass comprehensive privacy legislation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
AVG is among the first anti-virus vendors to tackle the problem, even though the company is not against web tracking.
"While online tracking isn’t necessarily bad - most trusted sites do this to improve user experience and offer up products and services the user would actually find interesting - we should have the power to decide for ourselves whether and how to be tracked," J.R. Smith, chief executive of AVG, said in the company's blog.
The control AVG gives customers comes in the form of a browser-embedded icon. Clicking on the icon when visiting a website provides a list of sites and advertisers collecting data and whether they are doing so anonymously or with personal identifiable information. In addition, the user is told how the data is retained and whether it is shared. Users then have the option of choosing which to block.
AVG's software goes beyond most web browsers. Users of Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer can have the browsers tell advertisers not to track, but whether they don't is voluntary.
Along with the do-not-track feature, the AVG update also prevents a person's laptop from logging into a public Wi-Fi hotspot that has not been accessed before. When such an access point is detected, a window pops up seeking permission to make the connection.
The feature protects people from unknowingly using a hotspot set up by cybercriminals, who often disguise their access points, so they appear to be from a well-known cafe, hotel or public Wi-Fi provider. People using such hotspots can have their web transactions recorded, and the credentials they use to access sites stolen.