In a blow to Microsoft's idea of having browsers block tracking cookies by default, the working group dealing with the issue at the World Wide Web Consortium has come up with a proposal that bars any automatic Do Not Track setting.
The proposal is a "grand compromise", as Stanford University's Jonathan Mayer put it in an email on Wednesday, with the privacy advocates in the working group losing out on two of the scheme's three biggest elements.
Under the proposal, Do Not Track (DNT) could only be enabled with the user's "explicit consent", and it would have to still allow affiliate information sharing. However, participants such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won on the matter of DNT prohibiting tracking cookies.
A week earlier, Microsoft had said it would turn DNT on by default in the version of Internet Explorer that will ship with Windows 8. However, if the compromise proposal unveiled on Wednesday goes through, this will not be possible if Microsoft is to comply with the DNT specification.
"Please recognise that it is a compromise proposal," Mayer wrote in his email to participants, which include browser-makers, social networks, advertising firms, analytics companies, policy-makers, consumer groups and researchers.
"The document is not a retread of well-worn positions; it reflects extraordinarily painful cuts for privacy-leaning stakeholders, including complete concessions on two of the three central issues. Some participants have already indicated that they believe the proposal goes too far and are unwilling to support it," Mayer noted.
The DNT standard, the creation of which has strong backing from the US and EU administrations, targets much the same subject area as the 'cookie law' which came into force in the UK in late May.
Both are designed to make sure web surfers are aware that they are being tracked by cookies as they surf the web, and to give them the option of blocking those trackers, as long as they are not essential.