What is Global Privacy Control? How organizations are teaming up to prevent your personal data from being sold

Hand typing on computer
The Global Privacy Control feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins designed to protect you against websites selling your personal data. Bill Hinton/Getty Images
  • The Global Privacy Control (GPC) feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins to tell websites not to sell your personal data.
  • GPC is found in a small number of browsers and plug-ins, and compliance is optional.
  • The GPC is being developed by a consortium of tech companies and publishers.
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The Global Privacy Control (GPC) is a technology initiative being spearheaded by a group of publishers and technology companies to create a global setting in web browsers that allows users to control their privacy online. This means you should be able to set the GPC control in your browser to prevent websites from selling your personal data.

Why the Global Privacy Control feature is important

In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny on privacy rights online. In 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, limiting the data websites can collect on EU citizens. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a similar legislative measure that went into effect in California in 2020.

While there is enhanced interest in online privacy and some governments are taking steps to limit what websites can do with user data, there is no global way for users to opt-out of having their personal information sold or used in ways they don’t approve of. Every website that needs to comply with legal mandates – or simply implement more progressive privacy policies – must implement an opt-out mechanism on its own.

The GPC is built to inform websites not to sell user data. This is different from other privacy tools that might limit tracking but might still allow user data to be sold (or to sell that data itself).

What is the Global Privacy Control feature 1
Some organizations offer the ability for users to opt-in to their privacy control feature. Dave Johnson/Insider

When fully implemented, the GPC may allow you to opt-out of having your personal data sold by the websites you visit.

Status of the Global Privacy Control feature

Buoyed by these new laws, the GPC is intended to be a single, global setting users can activate in their web browser that signals to all websites the user’s intention about their data privacy.

Currently, the specification is being written by an informal consortium of more than a dozen organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the National Science Foundation, The New York Times, Mozilla, The Washington Post, and Consumer Reports.

The specification that will govern how the GPC will be implemented and behave is still in development, though in principle, it simply allows a website to read a value (such as Sec-GPC-field-value = “1”) to know that the user has chosen to opt-out of having their data sold.

A number of web browsers and browser extensions have implemented the GPC in its draft form. Moreover, adoption of the GPC privacy settings carries no legal weight. If you use a browser or extension with the GPC feature, at this time no websites are obligated to respect its setting – compliance with the GPC is voluntary.

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