The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has issued a statement about the “Do Not Track” settings which will be used in version 10 of the Microsoft-owned Internet Explorer browser.
The consortium says that the program’s settings, which turn on “Do Not Track” by default, are not an “appropriate standard” for providing consumers the choice over what content they see.
As part of a written response issued today, the Alliance said:
“Machine-driven ‘Do Not Track’ does not represent user choice; it represents browser-manufacturer choice. Allowing browser manufacturers to determine the kinds of information users receive could negatively impact the vast consumer benefits and Internet experiences delivered by DAA participants and millions of other Web sites that consumers value.
In addition, standards that are different than the consensus-based DAA Principles could confuse consumers and be difficult to implement. A ‘default on’ do-not-track mechanism offers consumers and businesses inconsistencies and confusion instead of comfort and security.”
“Do Not Track” is a privacy preference which prevents online advertisers from collecting information based on a reader’s actions when using the Web. Firms can still display advertisements in your browser, but it means they can’t use information collected by tracking cookies to display ads based on your online activity.
The preference itself uses an HTTP header field. Advertisers then need to look at the header attached to each user, and then work out whether the user has opted-in to the service. If they have, the company then has to comply accordingly.
In the statement above, the Alliance, which represents a number of leading advertising and marketing trade groups, is suggesting that the default setting will give Microsoft too much control, or influence, over the type of information that users see when using the Internet Explorer browser.
In addition, they claim that it also conflicts with many of the ‘DAA Principles’ that the Alliance is trying to introduce to the Web. It says this set of principles, which are a self-regulatory program and user choice tool, is the only mechanisms in place “that truly provides consumers with clear transparency, choice, and meaning about how their data will and will not be used.”
Microsoft announced earlier in June that the “Do Not Track” option would be activated as a default on Internet Explorer 10 when used with Windows 8, as part of its commitment towards user privacy.
However, the move has faced significant criticism from both Internet users and advertising companies, who feel that it shouldn’t be switched on unless users specifically ask for it to be activated.
Brendan Lynch, Chief Privacy Officer for Microsoft, defended the decision in August this year, explaining that users would be given the option to easily switch “Do Not Track” off if they preferred.
“This approach is consistent with Microsoft’s goal of designing and configuring IE features to better protect user privacy, while also affording customers control of those features.
It also underscores that the privacy of our customers is a top priority for Microsoft.”
It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will take the Alliance’s views on board before launching Internet Explorer 10 to the public with Windows 8.