Microsoft announced that the tenth iteration of Internet Explorer will feature “Do Not Track” as its default setting.
“We believe that consumers should have more control over how information about their online behavior is tracked, shared, and used,” Brendan Lynch, the chief privacy officer of Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.
Users who browse with IE 10 will not be automatically tracked and will therefore need to affirmatively opt in to receive behavioral advertising.
The company will be the first browser to offer Do Not Track as the default setting. Mozilla’s Firefox, Google Chrome and the current version of Internet Explorer offer it as an option for users.
The Federal Trade Commission, which has advocated for Do Not Track, praised the move. “Microsoft’s Do Not Track option in its upcoming version of Internet Explorer is yet another step forward in giving consumers choice about their browsing data,” Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, said in a statement. “Despite this positive development, industry should honor consumer choice not just for receiving targeted ads, but for all tracking other than for expected purposes like security. I remain hopeful that industry will provide an effective Do Not Track solution by the end of the year.”
But advertising groups disagreed, calling the move contrary to the spirit of the industry’s agreement to honor Do Not Track as an opt-in option.
The industry supports “consumer choice, not a choice made by one browser or technology vendor,” the Digital Advertising Alliance’s General Counsel told The Wall Street Journal. Instead of having Do Not Track dictated by the browser, consumers should be given a choice whether or not to be tracked, he added.
“This action by Microsoft is absolutely not helpful and actually represents a setback for consumer protection,” Interactive Advertising Bureau President and CEO Randall Rothenberg told AdExchanger.
The Association of National Advertisers suggested that Microsoft reconsider. “We request that Microsoft reconfigure IE 10, which is now in preview mode, to contain a default ‘off’ browser setting for its ‘Do Not Track’ function,” the group said in a statement. “This change in mode will provide consumers a real choice as to whether they do or do not want tailored advertising, the information to make a reasoned choice, and therefore will be consumer empowering.”
To read Microsoft’s announcement of the policy change, click here.
Why it matters: Microsoft’s policy change leaves advertisers with a difficult choice: hope that consumers change their default settings in IE 10, or reject the settings and continue to track users. The company’s decision also kinked up the process among groups and advocates attempting to establish a consistent definition of Do Not Track and a uniform system across multiple browsers. The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, told Ad Age that Microsoft’s default settings will render the browser noncompliant with the group’s recommendations. Despite the pushback, Microsoft’s position hasn’t changed. In a blog post following the criticism, Lynch said Do Not Track would remain the default setting for IE 10. “We agree with those who say this is all about user choice,” he wrote. “However, we respectfully disagree with those who argue that the default setting for [Do Not Track] should favor tracking as opposed to privacy.”