Microsoft sticks to default Do Not Track settings in IE 10

Microsoft sticks to default Do Not Track settings in IE 10

Summary: Online advertisers and analytics companies were furious with Microsoft's decision to enable Do Not Track as a default in IE 10. Microsoft today announced it's sticking to its guns. How will the tracking industry respond?

TOPICS: Privacy, Microsoft

When Microsoft shipped its Release Preview of Windows 8 in June, it announced that the default browser, Internet Explorer 10, would have the Do Not Track (DNT) signal enabled by default. That action unleashed a heated debate in the Tracking Protection Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

To the advertising and analytics companies that make up the tracking industry, this issue is an existential one. If the default browser in the world’s most popular operating system is set to disallow tracking, the effect would be profoundly disruptive to companies that live and die by their ability to follow users around the web.

After much discussion, the working group agreed that DNT could only be turned on by a browser if that decision "reflects the user’s preference." The result was a consensus by the working group that a browser (technically, a user-agent) should not enable DNT by default.

Today, Microsoft answered those critics by saying it still intends to enable DNT in Internet Explorer in IE 10. But the final released version will make one concession, according to Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch, who announced the decision in a blog post:

DNT will be enabled in the “Express Settings” portion of the Windows 8 set-up experience.  There, customers will also be given a “Customize” option, allowing them to easily switch DNT “off” if they’d like.

Microsoft says anyone who goes through the express setup will know without question that they’re agreeing to enable DNT:

Customers will receive prominent notice that their selection of Express Settings turns DNT “on.”  In addition, by using the Customize approach, users will be able to independently turn “on” and “off” a number of settings, including the setting for the DNT signal.  A “Learn More” link with detailed information about each recommended setting will help customers decide whether to select Express Settings or Customize. A Privacy Statement link is also available on the screen. Windows 7 customers using IE10 will receive prominent notice that DNT is turned on in their new browser, together with a link providing more information about the setting.

The decision is likely to inspire more outrage from the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, which is in the homestretch of its standards-setting process.

One of Microsoft’s most ardent foes in this debate is Mike Zaneis, SVP & General Counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, who has argued strenuously that the tracking industry should feel free to ignore DNT signals from anyone using any browser that enables DNT by default:

This group has decided that browsers should be shipped with DNT turned off.  Furthermore, we have agreed that browsers shipped with DNT turned on would be non-compliant with the spec (Aleecia has been very public with this position).  Therefore, a company can be compliant with the W3C spec and ignore a signal that they know to have been sent by a default setting.

The question ultimately comes down to defaults. Both sides know that most users are inclined to accept the default settings rather than go through a customization process. The tracking industry wants that default to be “Go ahead and track me, I don’t care,” while Microsoft argues that displaying the effect of the default settings diuring initial setup is sufficient to ensure that the DNT setting matches the user’s intent.

If the W3C working group ultimately sides with the tracking industry, the effect on users will be pure confusion. The IAB argues that it’s OK to completely ignore a DNT signal from a “non-compliant” browser like IE 10. But another working group member argues that that approach is flawed. Tamir Israel, of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, responded to Zaneis with a list of objections:

* allowing for second guessing of facially valid signals leads to significant confusion on the part of users, many of whom will be using IE10 under the assumption that they are not being tracked;

* at least in some, if not all, jurisdictions servers open themselves up to significant potential liability if they ignore such signals, even if the browser sending them is non-compliant;

* it is essentially browser sniffing, which sets a bad precedent the impact of which far exceeds IE10 implications. It will allow anyone at any point of the exchange to basically ignore any signal they don't like based on purely subjective factors;

With its decision, Microsoft is consciously staking out a pro-privacy position for IE 10 and throwing down a gauntlet to the Tracking Protection Working Group, which thought it had hammered out an uneasy consensus between privacy groups and advertisers.

The working group is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Although today’s announcement by Microsoft isn’t on the agenda, I’m betting that it will be a topic of still more vigorous discussion.

Topics: Privacy, Microsoft

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  • Please stick to it

    Tell online advertisers like Google to get stuffed.
    • Not Really

      The problem with this, while it does effect advertisers, is also more wide spread than that. Web Designers like myself use analytics to see how our users interact with the site and make improvement based off of those results. Making them un-trackable by default is kind of silly, anyone that doesnt want to be tracked can turn it off anyways, anyone that doesn't care can keep it on, I don't see what the big deal is with it being on by default when you can just click a button and be hidden if it was that important to you...
      • Well maybe I want the advertisers to mind their own business

        And stop trying to sell me crap that I don't want.
        • You are missing the point

          "Do not track" means to not identify your browser as unique over time and associate it with web browsing history. It does NOT mean that you will not be served ads. You're just going to see a lot of untargeted ads for things you don't need or want, because an advertiser does not know your browsing interests. You will still see 100% of the ads you would see with "Do Not Track" enabled vs. when it is not enabled. So in order to "not be sold crap you don't want", you will want to enable tracking in IE10.
          • No, you're still missing the point

            Let me repeat this for you...

            "I want the advertisers to mind their own business and stop trying to sell me crap that I don't want."

            Now what is it about that statement that you don't understand? It's direct to the point. It tells you where I stand. I do not want targeted ads directed towards me.

            The fact that it's got (so far) 17 up votes says it has struck a chord with some of the other readers here, while you blather on and make excuses for it.

          • Blather on?

            He explained to you how it works. Yes, he ignored your vague desires, which you only now clarified. He made no excuses for it, he was trying to be helpful. Your quoted self is not clear at all and his response is valid, you'll still get crap shoved at you. Only then did you specify that it's only the targeted crap you don't want. Generic crap is fine.

            Learn how to express yourself and you wouldn't need to explain yourself.

          • Hard to believe this guy is serious but he is

            People in marketing live in the worst sort of cognitive dissonance imaginable whereby they make a living justifying things. They are worse than attorneys-at least attorneys have some kind of principle behind what they do (testing and shaping laws). Modern sales are like cults and you don't dare challenge their self-proclaimed rights to your personal business. Ultimately it is their fault for choosing an immoral career in the first place.
            Remember the fight we had to go through to stop unwanted phone calls? These people truly think they have a moral leg to stand on here.
          • You are still, still missing the point

            Caviar, Hammer,

            You are sadly misunderstanding the situation. I make no claims to the "morality" of marketers, or the benefits/intrusions that tracking brings. The stated desire was this:

            You want advertisers to:

            1) Mind their own business. Okay.
            2) Stop trying to sell me crap I don't want. You are not understanding what tracking does. It allows advertisers to use the publisher's ad space to deliver advertising based on your interests. It is not like "do not call" where your phone number won't ring from telemarketers any more, or stop all of the BS catalogs you get in your mailbox every day from showing up. You will see no fewer ads if you are not tracked - you will end up just seeing random, irrelevant ones. Do you want dog food ads if you own a cat? How many toothpaste banners do you want to see if you're wearing dentures? It is your choice.

            So when you say "stop selling me crap I don't want", you are actually working against your objective when you opt-out of online tracking. That is a fact.
          • Jesus, what @hammerbill said

            And @Randymac88 and @oneleft are two prime examples of this.

            You marketeers really don't get it, do you? You're so blindsided by your profession you're DENSE.

            Pissing your customers off by bombarding them with ads will do the opposite and you still don't have a clue why.

        • Well then - modify your host file...

          ...and stop all ads from showing up. It's a marketer's worst nightmare :). Web pages are much more pleasant without them. Google 'modify host file to stop ads' - there are excellent tools out there for this.

          And for once Microsoft is doing something right here. Just a question of how many people will actually read what the default settings are and act accordingly.
          Too-Tired Techie
      • Silly to whom?

        Maybe the users don't want to be tracked. And since they are doing the navigation they should be able to decide how they want it. If it is good for the users, then show them the benefits so they can be willing to accept being tracked.
      • If you want their interaction data, use a survey!!!

      • The problem with that, Marc, is that...

        ...when something is designed for a good purpose, but over time gets jijacked and abused for a "not-so-good" purpose, then it's better to pull the plug on it for the greater good. That's always been the harsh reality of this world - the innocent suffer.

        As an individual consumer, I'm much more comfortable with Microsoft's approach.
      • Two problems

        There are two problems with your comments. The first is that what we're talking about won't impact web designers doing site analytics. That doesn't require tracking a user beyond the pages of the one site, and that can be done anonymously. That's not what this is about.

        The second thing is that most people don't have the faintest clue about how much of their daily life is spent under an invisible microscope and for sale to anyone who wants it. Expecting them to know about some obscure setting buried in their browser configuration is unrealistic, and ignores the fact that this setting is intended to do exactly what MS proposes to do; protect the clueless and make life simpler for the clued-in.

        It's not there for the benefit of the marketers. It's for the users, so why shouldn't it be defaulted to the setting that 99.9% of the population would choose, if they knew it existed? MS got something right, for once. Deal with it.
    • And along with advertisers and google, Ed Bott can get stuffed too

      Ed, you really had to scrape the bottom of the toilet bowel to come up with anything that makes Microsoft look like a champion of the users, don't you?

      DNT is worthless and has always been because it is completely up to the trackers whether to pay any attention to it. That is, they have to weigh your privacy against their profits.

      Not until we get a government that isn't purchased by corporations will there be any meaningful privacy laws.
      • So then Miss Faye_Kane...

        ...if it's up to the websites to ENABLE it on their end before the setting in IE 10 is actually useful, why do you care?

        Seriously, it's not like advertisers are going to voluntarily do anything to hurt their bottom line, which means, in the end, the consumers get screwed yet again.
      • Did you read the article?

        According to Tamir Israel, as quoted in the article, "[A]t least in some, if not all, jurisdictions servers open themselves up to significant potential liability if they ignore such signals, even if the browser sending them is non-compliant."

        At least in the EU, privacy law is taken very seriously, so website operators who ignore privacy settings will probably get into trouble. I'm glad Microsoft aren't giving in to these advertising firms.
  • Here we go.

    I guess we are going to be able to now add the Tracking Protection Working Group as people who feel that Windows 8 (by way of IE 10) is a catastrophe.
    • Tracking, etc.

      Do not forget that the trackers are the real customers. The user is not the money making customer. The user is the means to get to the customer.
  • Kudos MS.

    Its true, I tested the 'Leaked' RTM version in Hyper-V and DNT is turned on in express settings. Online advertisers and google go jump in the ocean, enough is enough.