Microsoft has moved to quell growing disquiet from digital advertisers concerning its announcement that IE10 will send a “do not track” signal to web advertisers by default.
Corporate VP for Microsoft’s Advertising Business Group, Rik van der Kooi, has issued a “read my lips” statement in Adweek which runs, “For the record, we are not retrenching on our commitment to build a leading digital advertising business at Microsoft.”
From “don’t ask don’t tell” to the age of digital enlightenment?
Essentially, van der Kooi is seeking to reassure the jobbing advertising sales manager, business development manager and search engine marketing specialist that they will not need to look for new careers. Microsoft remains fully in favor of digital advertising. Van der Kooi argues that it’s no longer acceptable to give people no say over how their data is being retained and used. Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about privacy as the volume of data collected online explodes.
He makes a compelling point. Instead of a debate about turning the DNT signal on IE10 on or off, the public needs to be educated by industry experts on how the $30 billion online advertising industry pays for the free Web experience. DNT should merely accelerate consumers’ understanding of data management, not cause a meltdown in online advertising sales.
Will DNT by default simply be ignored?
As Business Insider journalist Jim Edwards had already pointed out, DNT is not an indiscriminate cookie blocker. It’s merely a signal to online advertisers – a signal they’re free to ignore and drop tracking cookies anyway.
Be that as it may, the decision to make DNT a default setting remains controversial. Earlier this year, Mozilla (a pioneer of DNT technology) had opposed Microsoft’s decision, with privacy expert Alex Fowler blogging that “going DNT” should be a consumer choice, not a machine led policy.
More recently, Adobe employee Roy Fielding has devised a patch for his open source webserver Apache which instructs it to ignore IE10’s default privacy web settings. Millions of other webservers may follow suit. Fielding helped draft the World Wide Web Consortium’s DNT Standard, and believes Microsoft’s decision violates the specification that DNT should always be a personal preference made by a human being, not by a browser.
This controversy looks set to run.