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8/8/2012
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Microsoft IE 10 Makes 'Do Not Track' Default

Users may laud Microsoft's privacy efforts in Internet Explorer 10, but publishers and advertisers could be less thrilled.

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In what it's labeling as an effort to protect consumer privacy, Microsoft will ship Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 enabled by default with a feature that prevents websites from tracking users' Internet activity.

The feature, called Do Not Track, blocks merchants from serving ads for products and services to third-party websites based on users' previous Web visits.

Microsoft said Do Not Track will be active when users boot up their Windows 8 devices for the first time, and will stay that way unless they turn it off.

"This approach is consistent with Microsoft's goal of designing and configuring IE features to better protect users privacy, while also affording customers control of those features," said Brendon Lynch, the company's chief privacy officer, in a blog post. "It also underscores that the privacy of our customers is a top priority for Microsoft."

Do Not Track will be left on by default when users select Express Settings when configuring their Windows 8 system for the first time. They can choose to turn off the feature during the setup process if they select Custom settings. The can also deactivate it later using in IE 10's settings controls.

"By providing a simple experience that allows customers to set their preferences, we've sought to balance ease of use with choice and control," said Lynch. "The recommended Express settings are designed to expedite and streamline the overall setup process, and, if selected, generally improve a customer's privacy."

[ Will Window 8 make good use of Dynamics, Azure, and the rest of its stack? Windows 8 In Enterprises: Seeking Killer Apps. ]

Microsoft's decision to enable Do Not Track by default may be popular with consumers, but advertisers and Web publishers may be less happy with the move. Web tracking allows them to serve up contextual ads based on consumers' browsing habits. So, for instance, if a user visits a site for Las Vegas restaurants, he or she may later start seeing ads for Las Vegas hotels.

Lynch said Microsoft has made Web advertisers aware of its plans. "We have also discussed our point of view with many interested parties, who want to learn more about how our customers will first experience and control the DNT setting."

DNT will also be turned on by default for Windows 7 users who upgrade to IE 10. Windows 8 will be available to the general public on Oct. 26.

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Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/9/2012 | 9:09:20 PM
re: Microsoft IE 10 Makes 'Do Not Track' Default
Okay, I think this is a great thing for users and probably a move that makes another part of Microsoft (the part that handles ad serving) pretty unhappy. I'd dare say it's a pretty big "shot over the bow" for Google and Facebook (two of the largest advertising platforms in existance) as well.

What would be the rational for a user to turn tracking on once it's turned off? Wild discounts on something? Maybe incentivise tracking by paying consumers to track their web surfing? Wasn't there an outfit in the late 90s/early 2000s that did just that with a proprietary banner-presentation deal on the user's screen?

For a little comic relief, try reading the IAB response to the DNT being turned on in Windows 8.

Those of us that (fondly) remember when the Internet wasn't fueled by advertisements, almost to a person, would rather go back to the way things were - as opposed to the constant stream of advertising, consumerism, blah, blah, blah, etc.

Stories from those days sound like the modern equivalent of walking to school, through feet of snow, uphill both ways anymore.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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