Microsoft is taking a stand for the people. The aspiring mobile developer is standing by its decision to enable Do Not Track as the default setting in IE10. This has caused more than a few issues with advertising companies as they agreed to follow the Do Not Track privacy scheme. This back and forth debate has been going for a few days now and is showing no signs of a finale.
What Do Not Track Means
Do Not Track is a privacy setting that uses an HTTP header sent with every Web server request to indicate the users preferences. The DNT setting can either have a 1 indicating the desire to not be tracked, or a 0 stating tracking is acceptable. Sometimes the header doesnÔÇÖt transfer correctly at which point the decision is up to the advertiser.
The issue here is that sending your preference doesnÔÇÖt actually do anything. Advertisers need to both look for and honor this DNT setting for it to do anything. While some advertisers are tentatively accepting the DNT setup, many are not. The only real incentive is the fear of government punishment.
Aspiring mobile developer Microsoft is sticking with its commitment to make the DNT setting on by default, rather than leave it to off so users who want it can turn it on. They are claiming that their stand ÔÇ£puts people firstÔÇØ. They are, however making sure that the initial Windows 8 setup provides enough details so that users are informed and can make their own decision. They are saying that it is a default, but it is an informed default.
When Microsoft announced that IE10 would have the DNT setting on by default, this through everything into an uproar. The basic agreement between advertisers and mobile developers became threatened. The fact is, the advertisers know that most users donÔÇÖt change their settings and the ones that ultimately care about it will do so. The individuals that choose to opt out were unlikely to click ads anyway so it was no great loss. They are taking the stand that if the default is set to DNT, they will simply ignore the header anyway.
This is a confusing issue there are some opinions going out. The FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch has taken a stand against Microsoft stating in a letter that ÔÇ£MicrosoftÔÇÖs default [Do No Track] setting means that Microsoft, not consumers, will be exercising choice as to what signal the browser will send.ÔÇØ
Many officials are in support of Microsoft saying that making consumer privacy a priority is a good thing. Others are taking the stand that browsers that default the DNT setting on need to give consumers greater control and an informed choice on their own privacy.
There is not a perfect option in this issue. By setting a default to one or the other, someone will be angry. On one hand, businesses and companies will be hurt by ruling, and Advertisers are getting worried about ignoring the DNT header. As the issue comes to light and becomes serious, legal rulings will likely start to be made.
In the end, there has to be a default. It is very bad practice to not include one and it will be interesting to see the ruling on the mobile developers and their browsers.
What I Think
Privacy is a great thing to be defending; however I do agree that there needs to be a decision made by the user, not the provider. Microsoft is moving in the right direction that I expect will be the standard for how this all goes. Browsers should be able to choose their default setting, but there needs to be sufficient information on the setting for the user. I also wouldnÔÇÖt mind if there the option was added to the initial setup of the browser. Tracking userÔÇÖs data and tailoring ads to their habits really doesnÔÇÖt seem that bad to me, but I know for certain that some are vehemently against it.
The issue of browsing privacy and tracking is an interesting one. I doubt that there will be an easy solution and chances are likely that a higher body of power will have to make a ruling on the subject. Until then, be aware of the DNT function, turn it on or off according to your preferences, and wait patiently.