A free data privacy tool is now available for Colorado consumers. Here’s how to use it

A pair of hands type on a laptop computer keypad.
Elise Amendola/AP, File
FILE – A person works on a laptop on June 19, 2017. Colorado internet users can now download a free, state-approved web browser extension that tells any website they visit not to track their data. The new opt-out program was created through SB21-190, which took effect in July.

Internet users in Colorado can now download a free, state-approved web browser extension that tells any website they visit not to track their data.

Websites and apps commonly collect data from its visitors using “cookies” that help them track how people use the company’s services. They can include basic information about preferences, such as what language a person uses to navigate the website or app. But they can often include personal information, too. 

For instance, cookies can save a person’s login information for them so they don’t need to fill in their password each time. They can also track where visitors are located and what other services someone uses on their devices.

The potential problem for consumers, depending on their perspectives, is that companies often sell user data to firms that create targeted ads sent directly to your browser or email. Data privacy advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that data can be pieced together and used to identify people, a process known as “de-anonymizing.”

Colorado’s new opt-out program was created through a state law that took effect this month. The law allows the Colorado Attorney General’s office to identify “Universal Opt-Out Mechanisms,” which means the state can prosecute companies that still collect the data of users who use opt-out programs. While consumers can manually opt out of data collection on a site-by-site basis, universal opt-out mechanisms will do it for them automatically.

The first universal opt-out mechanism approved by the state is Global Privacy Control, a software developed and supported by a consortium of companies, digital rights organizations and independent developers. The initial developers were technologist Ashkan Soltani, Wesleyan University computer science professor Sebastian Zimmeck and the Georgetown University Law Center.

Attorney General Phil Weiser said the state could add more opt-out programs to its approved list in the future.

How to install Global Privacy Control

Global Privacy Control is supported on major browsers, like Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox. 

Unlike other major browsers, Mozilla Firefox has built-in support for Global Privacy Control, which can be turned on in the browser settings.

For Chrome, Safari and Edge, users will have to download a browser extension to use Global Privacy Control. Both Privacy Badger and DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials plugins work for Chrome and Edge users. Safari users can only use DuckDuckGo to activate Global Privacy Control.

Colorado is following in California’s data privacy footsteps, and more protections could be on the way

California adopted a similar law in 2020, which also recognized Global Privacy Control as a safe universal opt-out mechanism. 

The Colorado Privacy Act was passed in 2021, and it gives Colorado consumers the right to access, delete and correct their personal data, in addition to opting out of the sale of personal data. The Attorney General’s Office began enforcing the Privacy Act in 2023. 

While universal opt-out mechanisms were available before California and Colorado passed their digital privacy acts, the laws allow the two states to pursue legal action against companies that fail to abide by opt-out requests from consumers. In 2022, beauty retail company Sephora paid $1.2 million to resolve a claim from California’s attorney general that it failed to process such requests. 

During the last legislative cycle, lawmakers amended the Colorado Privacy Act to add protections for biometric information, such as fingerprint, voice and facial recognition data. The law requires companies that collect biometric data to take several actions, including destroying data within one year of a request and storing data with greater security.