Top ad execs blast Microsoft for 'Do Not Track' defaults in IE 10

04/10/2012

In an open letter, an influential US-based lobbying group for the advertising industry has criticised Microsoft's decision to enable Do Not Track as the default setting in Internet Explorer 10. The Association of National Advertisers wrote a letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, saying the "do not track" default setting would "undercut the effectiveness of our members’ advertising..." and ultimately "harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy."

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The letter was signed by the chief marketing officers of Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Ford, Verizon, Coca Cola, Unilever, General Electric, American Express, Kraft and 30 others.

It warned that the action will effectively turn off data collection across a vast swath of the public.
"Microsoft's Internet Explorer Browser currently has a 43% market share in the United States," the letter said. "By setting the Internet Explorer browser to block data collection, Microsoft's action could potentially eliminate the ability to collect web-viewing data of up to 43% of the browsers used by Americans."

The argument stems from Microsoft’s decision to enable the Do Not Track header for IE 10 in an express installation of Windows 8.

If a user sets up Windows 8 and accepts the default settings, the browser will send the DNT=1 signal to any website that user subsequently visits.

In theory, the DNT=1 signal means the user has expressed the intent for his or her online behavior to not be tracked.

The ANA argues that this “opt in” decision is unacceptable:

Default policy choices should be set by looking to what is best for society as a whole, while giving individuals who have strong preferences the ability to make a different choice. By making this selection for consumers and presenting it in the terms that Microsoft has used, you are presenting the wrong choice to consumers and making a choice for them in a way that is fundamentally bad for consumer interests and the Internet services that they cherish, and even worse concealing this trade-off from them.

Jennifer McCarthy, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment on the letter. She referred to an Adweek article by Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft’s vice president of the advertisers and publishers group, who wrote that the do not track setting could easily be turned on or off, giving users a choice.

“It is our contention that consumers want more visibility into how their data is used and they’re starting to see value in that data — just like marketers have seen for a long time,” van der Kooi wrote in the article.

Read the open letter in full here

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