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June 7, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Microsoft sticks to its guns on “Do Not Track” as default in IE10

Microsoft says it’s sticking to its plans, announced last week, to ship Internet Explorer 10 with the “Do Not Track” setting on by default.

That’s even though a group working on specifications for “Do Not Track” has issued a draft of the specs saying the decision to turn on “Do Not Track” should be left to the end user, not the company issuing the browser.

“All of which means that there’s no likelihood now that Microsoft IE 10, or any other browser, will ship with DNT turned on by default, though they could come with a very easy way for users to turn it on,” reported Wired.com, which also posted a copy of the draft specs.

Microsoft, however, says it’s still planning to ship IE10 with “Do Not Track” turned on.The company also said that the draft specs are just that — a draft, not a final decision — and that the company is still working with W3C (which stands for World Wide Web Consortium), the standards body working on the “Do Not Track” specs. Microsoft is a member of the group — which includes tech companies, privacy advocates and online ad companies — working on those specs.

“We are engaged with the W3C, as we are with many international standards bodies. While we respect the W3C’s perspective, we believe that a standard should support a privacy by default choice for consumers,” Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch said in a statement.

The company also pointed to minutes from the W3C group working on the draft specs, in which the group’s co-chairwoman said: “It will be quite a while before we have a final recommendation with which to comply or not. As I posted before, until there is a final recommendation, there is no way for a user agent (or anyone else) to be complying or not complying: there simply is no published recommendation yet.”

“Do Not Track” is a tool that allows browser users to restrict advertisers from collecting information about their online Web activities. It has the backing of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Browsers with “Do Not Track” turned on don’t block cookies but send a message to advertisers that the user does not want to be tracked. Companies voluntarily decide whether to comply with “Do Not Track,” much as they currently decide whether to comply with the “Do Not Call” registry.

Microsoft’s announcement that it would turn on “Do Not Track” by default in IE10 angered advertisers.”The Digital Advertising Alliance, a coalition that counts Microsoft as a member, said that the decision ran counter to the industry’s agreement with the White House announced earlier this year to honor ‘do not track’ as long as it is not a default setting,” according to a Wall Street Journal Digits blog post.

Ironically, Microsoft’s own ad network doesn’t comply with “Do Not Track,” though the company says discussions are underway to possibly change that stance. Microsoft sent a statement on that issue, saying:

Multi-stakeholder discussions regarding the appropriate response to the DNT signal are ongoing and we look forward to continuing to participate in them. We believe a uniform industry-wide response is important in order to provide a consistent consumer experience across the web. As we announced in February, Microsoft Advertising intends to treat the do-not-track browser signal as an opt-out of behavioral advertising under the Digital Advertising Alliances self-regulatory program. Microsoft does not yet respond to the DNT signal, but we are actively working with other advertising industry leaders on what an implementation plan for DNT might look like, with a goal of announcing more details about our plans in the coming months.

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