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Microsoft moves to calm shockwaves after default anti-tracking stance on IE10

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.

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