Microsoft just made the Internet a little more private for everyone

Internet Explorer 10 will ship with Do Not Track settings turned on by default. That's good news for you and me; not so good for the online ad industry.

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Break out the champagne and put on your party hats: A software heavyweight just struck a major blow for the concept of Privacy by Design.

Microsoft has elected to release Internet Explorer 10.0 with Do Not Track as the default setting. Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch blogged about the decision here. He said, in part:

We believe that consumers should have more control over how information about their online behavior is tracked, shared and used. Online advertising is an important part of the economy supporting publishers and content owners and helping businesses of all shapes and sizes to go to market. There is also value for consumers in personalized experiences and receiving advertising that is relevant to them.

Of course, we hope that many consumers will see this value and make a conscious choice to share information in order to receive more personalized ad content. For us, that is the key distinction. Consumers should be empowered to make an informed choice and, for these reasons, we believe that for IE10 in Windows 8, a privacy-by-default state for online behavioral advertising is the right approach.

While both Chrome and Firefox have Do Not Track capabilities built in, they’re turned off by default. Microsoft is making its mark by turning that setting on. Safari also blocks tracking cookies by default, but who outside of the Mac universe uses Safari?

The online advertising industry reacted about the way you’d expect -- by implying that if we don’t all let advertisers follow us around the Web jotting down every site we visit and what we do there, the “free” Internet will shrivel up and die.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, a consortium of online ad networks and data gatherers that has been pushing for self-regulation of Web tracking for the past several years (and was apparently blindsided by Microsoft’s announcement), issued a vigorous response. Here’s the money quote:

The DAA is very concerned that this unilateral decision by one browser maker - made without consultation within the self-regulatory process - may ultimately narrow the scope of consumer choices, undercut thriving business models, and reduce the availability and diversity of the Internet products and services that millions of American consumers currently enjoy at no charge.

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