Microsoft makes ‘Do Not Track’ default browser option- A threat to advertisers?

01/06/2012

Microsoft's next version of its Internet Explorer browser will come with do-not-track already turned on, in a move that has sparked criticism from the online advertising industry. In a statement, the software giant said Internet Explorer 10 will be the "first browser to feature Do Not Track 'on' by default, giving customers more choice and control over their privacy."

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In the last year, major browser developers have developed do-not-track headers, but those headers merely send requests from users to online companies. It's up to the ad networks and publishers to decide whether to respect the request.

In a blog post, Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendan Lynch wrote that the company made the decision because users should “make a conscious choice to share information in order to receive more personalized ad content.”

The controversy surrounding tracking emphasises the difficulty of disabling the online tracking powers much of the $30 billion online advertising industry.

Mozilla was the first Web browser to add a do-not-track feature to its Firefox Web browser, even though few advertisers agreed to honor the users’ requests to not be tracked.

Microsoft was the second Web browser to add a do-not-track feature to its Web browser in Internet Explorer 9. It also forced users to ‘turn on’ the tool if they wanted to use it.
The new version, Internet Explorer 10, will have the tool turned on be default.

“While some people will say that this change is too much and others that it is not enough, we think it is progress and that consumers will favor products designed with their privacy in mind over products that are designed primarily to gather their data,” Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president overseeing Internet Explorer wrote on the IEblog.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, (DAA), a coalition of the nation's leading media and marketing trade associations and companies, raised concern about Microsoft's decision.

"Advertising has always been about connecting consumers to products and services that are likely of interest to them," said DAA General Counsel Stu Ingis. "While new Web technologies deliver more relevant advertising to consumers, comprehensive industry self-regulation is also providing consumers with meaningful choices about the collection of their data. The Administration and FTC have praised these efforts. Today's technology announcement, however, threatens to undermine that balance, limiting the availability and diversity of Internet content and services for consumers."

In a statement emailed to its members, the IAB UK also criticised the move, calling it “a step backwards in consumer choice, and we fear it will harm many of the businesses, particularly publishers, that fuel so much of the rich content on the internet.”

“Welieve the only workable policy is to educate consumers and allow them to control how data is collected for certain purposes, including interest-based advertising. A default setting that automatically blocks content violates the consumers right to choose,” the IAB statement concluded.

Read the Microsoft blog here

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