Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch introduces IE10.

Microsoft’s decision to prevent Internet Explorer 10 users from being tracked online, by default, is getting an extraordinary response from some of the world’s largest advertisers, in the form of a letter to the Redmond company this week from the Association of National Advertisers, objecting to to the plan.

The letter was signed by representatives of companies including Intel, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, General Mills and many others. At issue is the “Do Not Track” setting in IE10 and its impact on way advertisers to use information gathered about users, through their online activities, to better target advertising.

Other browser makers also offer the feature but it isn’t turned on by default. Microsoft sees the default setting in part as a competitive advantage in its appeal to get users to try Internet Explorer again. The new browser will be released in conjunction with the upcoming debut of Windows 8.

The ANA board contends in its letter that Microsoft’s plan to make Do Not Track the default will have drastic implications: “Microsoft’s decision to block collection and use of information by default will significantly reduce the diversity of Internet offerings and potentially cheat society of the robust offerings that are currently available.”

Ed Bott of ZDNet picks apart the ANA’s arguments, pointing out that an end to tracking doesn’t mean an end to the advertising industry. “Ad-supported television networks are able to survive without having any form of data collection to target ads to individual sets,” he writes. “Why is Internet advertising different?”

A Microsoft representative reiterated the company’s previous statement: “Our approach to DNT in Internet Explorer 10 is part of our commitment to privacy by design and putting people first. We believe consumers should have a consistent experience and more control over how data about their online behavior is tracked, shared and used. We also believe that targeted advertising can be beneficial to both consumers and businesses. As such, we will continue to work towards an industry-wide definition of tracking protection.”

Also see this June post by Brendon Lynch, Microsoft’s chief privacy officer.

The widely used Apache web server software will be set to override the privacy setting in IE10, calling Microsoft’s actions a “deliberate abuse of open standards.”

The dispute is remarkable in part because Microsoft is nominally a member of the Association of National Advertisers. It’s also amazing to see IE — one of the programs that was at the center of Microsoft’s U.S. antitrust case — now being used by the company to advocate consumer rights.

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  • Guest

    Thank you to Microsoft for standing up to other browser makers that are funded by advertising revenue (Mozilla, Google, etc) and enabling this Do Not Track feature by default. I’m sure that those who want to be tracked and monetised will disable the feature.

    This is a watershed event for consumers, something we haven’t seen since pop-up blocking became the norm and the pop-up advert effectively disappeared.

    • Michael Hazell

      Onclick popups are still around, and They are annoying. Ad Block for the win.

  • Steve

    This is great, thank you. BUT, IE10 in Windows 8 is very buggy. Please fix before launch. And yes, I’m using RTM code…

  • guest

    This can’t be helping MS’s already struggling Bing effort, but I think they’re on the right side of the issue this time, at least conceptually. I’m tired of being “bubbled” and fed articles and ads based on tracking that in many cases I’m not even aware of. It’s annoying, invasive, and rarely useful. That said, if DNT won’t actually be honored by advertisers then I’m not sure what MS’s stance and default choice in IE10 actually accomplishes in reality.

    • lan

      Microsoft still gets the data sent back from IE10, they just don’t want others to have the same data. Which gives bing an advantage.

      • guest

        What does that have to do with DNT? And what bing advantage? Google already has access to an order of magnitude more data, including that which will originate from IE10 users, a majority of whom will be using Google. This is about default behavior. I want my OS provider to protect me the buyer of their product, not some advertiser.

        • Michael Hazell

          I think Bing is the default sarch engine for IE.

          • guest

            Not if you upgrade and have a different preference already selected. And easily changed regardless, which is what most will do.

        • Lan

          Where exactly do you think google get’s that huge data? It’s from tracking people around the web. Google still has 70% search share, so it will still get lots of information, but not information about what the users do on a site. You want privacy? Use Tor.

  • SilverSee

    Microsoft provides an explicit means for users to opt in to tracking as part of the initial out-of-box experience in Windows 8. While Microsoft has chosen to set Do Not Track on by default, this choice is not hidden from users, and users are free to turn it off, as required by the proposed DNT standard.

    However, the very definition of a “default setting” in software is one that is expected to be chosen by the majority users. Really, does *anyone* think that most users will willingly choose to be tracked? The idea is preposterous. Setting the default to “allow tracking” is the kind of behavior associated with spyware, not with mainstream Web browsers. The advertisers (and Apache) are wrong on this one.

    • Michael Hazell

      I wonder how Apache will get past this one. If they do, they can be added to my “dig a hole bury yourself in it” speech.

  • Bob

    I totally get why advertisers hate this. They want to preserve the status quo, which is default set to tracking, and hope most consumers are either too lazy or uninformed to change it. Sort of like virus and malware writers rely on consumers not doing required OS updates or installing a/v and keeping it current. But is there anyone who seriously believes MS is wrong for protecting the privacy of the people who buy its products?

  • Dweeblefetzer

    Oh, fun times – now we get to watch all the MS-haters try to rationalize some way to describe default-DNT as a bad thing because it’s from MS.
    And here I thought the prez. debates were going to be my daily laugh…

    • Peter H

      It is a blatant violation of the spec.
      Now, web site operators have no way of knowing whether the user has requested DNT.
      The spec states that DNT must be opt-on for this reason.
      Me: Not a MS-hater, worked there for 9 years, live in a house paid for with MS options that I love.

      • Michael Hazell

        Most people do not know if their browsers offer do not track, so they get tracked.

      • Tristan

        “web site operators have no way of knowing whether the user has requested DNT.”

        This is a ridiculous statement, and a horrible argument. It’s safe to assume that most users, given the choice, would turn off DNT. It’s even designed to be confusing, being a double-negative—wouldn’t it make more sense to have it be a positive setting, called “Allow Tracking” and again, the sensible default would be to keep it off.

        The real choice is between Track or Not-Track, and MS still gives the option, and it’s still the user’s choice. The default of Not-Track is sensible and logical.

        The spec represents the interests of the advertisers—and they are the ones who have the power to influence it. It’s no better than political corruption and lobbying.

        It’s like having a “Do Not Crash” setting on a car and defaulting it to off because insurance companies want it that way. Stupid.

  • billy shakespeare

    This is a misguided PR move by MSFT and totally irrelevant. Because MSFT’s approach to DNT (opt out) is the opposite of the approach the rest of the industry has taken (opt in), website owners and advertisers are going to ignore MSFT’s DNT tags and track their users anyhow.

    Example here:

    MSFT is losing the war for the hearts and minds of consumers by building uninspired products, and they have been for a long time. Sadly, being on the ‘right side’ of consumer privacy isn’t going to make MSFT products suck any less. And since the vast majority of websites and advertisers are going to ignore IE10’s DNT request, this is much ado about nothing.

    • Random walk idiot

      If it were irrelevant, the industry wouldn’t be up in arms about it and you wouldn’t be here shilling for them.

      • billy shakespeare

        Not shilling for anyone. Just don’t believe websites and/or advertisers are going to respect MSFT’s tag.

        And you are sadly naive if you think MSFT cares a ton about user privacy and that their intentions here are pure.

        They are losing $2 billion a year in their advertising business while Google is killing it, and they would like nothing more than for advertising to fall off a cliff. Their motivation here is to make themselves look better in the eyes of the consumer.

        It will be interesting to see whether there is a ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ dynamic here. These companies that are ‘up in arms’ also buy a ton of MSFT software. Or at least they used to.

        • Just another random troll

          Of course you don’t. Because MS’s doing it, so being the kneejerk hater you are, it’s de facto bad.

    • Peter H

      The spec actually states that implementations must be opt-in. Thus Microsoft is violating the spec.
      This will be a rational basis used by web site operators to ignore the Microsoft DNT setting.
      Privately – I do not mind being tracked. If I am to see ads, I would much rather see ads for monster trucks than for feminine hygiene products. Tracking delivers such a win.

      • guest

        Here’s what you left out of that statement. The current spec isn’t the original one. It was specifically modified after MS’s announcement in an attempt to try and thwart MS’s pro-consumer decision.

  • Michael Hazell

    Apache’s decision to try to override the setting is stupid. Now I hope everyone ditches Apache, as there is better HTTP server software out there.

  • Sidiasus

    I love that fact that MS is setting DNT to default. I believe that too many people are not aware of the amount of tracking that is employed by advertisers.

    Unfortunately for MS, this breaks the specification that was negotiated between developers and advertisers. This increases the probability that advertisers will not honor DNT (or at least, the MS implementation).

    • guest

      “Unfortunately for MS, this breaks the specification that was negotiated between developers and advertisers.”
      No, it breaks the spec those latter parties modified after MS made its decision public.

  • Your Mom

    People are just going to end up ignoring the DNT because of this, way to kill something that was good.

  • nytoons

    I can’t wait to see advertisers ‘ignore’ IE10 tags as some in this chain have suggested. Good luck explaining that one to the FTC and Congress.

    • Your Mom

      Stupid, there is now law

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