Updated 'Do Not Track' draft says IE 10's default setting breaks rules

Summary:Microsoft's plans to introduce a default "Do Not Track" setting have been scuppered by no less than the draft specification's writers themselves.

Microsoft likely knew it was going to be an unpopular move for advertisers and tracking companies but went ahead and barged its way through a storm of criticism.

Though, it wasn't that the pressure was too much for Microsoft. It falls down to the "Do Not Track" specification itself. In short: the new draft rules must give the user the option to choose rather than Microsoft making the default decision for them.

The new draft specification --- worked on by technology companies and browser makers, privacy advocates, and online advertising firms --- now states that "explicit consent" is required from users, Wired reports.

"An ordinary user agent must not send a Tracking Preference signal without a user’s explicit consent," the new rules say. For example, "on first run, the user agent prompts the user to configure the Tracking Preference signal."

Granted, it could end up with Microsoft forcing a new user to select a "do not allow websites to track me" versus an "allow websites to track me" option. The user has to choose, but it's a pretty clear choice on which option a user will pick.

ZDNet's Ed Bott sees Microsoft's move as more of a "consistent chain of events" that goes back many years.

The chances are Microsoft's position hasn't changed. The Redmond-based software giant still wants to fight for the rights of its users... or wants to strike a deathly blow to Google. Either way, intentions aside, it's a good move.

But "Do Not Track" is far from infallible. The crux of the opposing argument is that websites do not have to adhere to the rules. Instead, it's a flagging system to signal a user's preference rather than a direct opt-out solution.

Browsers with "Do Not Track" enabled do not block tracking cookies set by advertisers. Instead, it's the browser asking the website not to track the user. Online ad networks do not have to comply yet --- this may change in the coming months, but is not enforceable without a legislative approach --- but industry pressure is on following Twitter's move to support the technology.

Because the specification is no more than a list of best practices rather than rules, Microsoft can go its own way, twist the knife in the back of advertisers like Google, and go ahead with its default-setting anti-tracking solution.

All it means is that the technology giant will not be able to say it adheres to the proper "Do Not Track" specification. Having said that, it also means many websites could therefore ignore Internet Explorer 10's outbound flags, negating Microsoft's best efforts altogether.

Related:

Topics: Microsoft

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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