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FTC: Microsoft browser doesn’t honor “Do Not Track”

Federal Trade Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch has written a letter to the World Wide Web Consortium Tracking Protection Working Group (W3C) blasting Microsoft for making “Do Not Track” (DNT) its default setting in Internet Explorer. In the letter, Rosch asserts that by having a default setting in the first place means that”Microsoft, not consumers, will be exercising choice as to what signal the browser will send.”

“Microsoft’s proposed default setting solves the ‘accessibility’ issue that has long confronted consumers who wish to implement a DNT browser setting,” he writes. “But it does not solve at all the fact that the recipients of the signal must still choose to honor the signal and refrain from tracking consumers and/or collecting data about them.”

DNT is a policy proposal intended to give consumers more control over who can track their browsing histories by allowing them to “opt-out” of tracking. In addition to Microsoft, Yahoo also announced that it would begin implementing a “Do Not Track” header feature in March.

Microsoft declined to comment for this story. However, the company released a statement saying that online targeted ads, which require tracking in order to work, can be helpful to consumers and marketers. “With Internet Explorer, Microsoft provides customers with the ability to make known their privacy preferences, relative to online tracking,” states Microsoft in its statement.

Meanwhile, at the IAB Marketplace Advertising Technology conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in New York on June 21, a panel of marketers and lawyers discussed “Do Not Track,” and what they believed to be the ominous implications of possible DNT legislation. “‘Do Not Track’, executed poorly, could be a very real threat to our entire industry,” says Steve Sullivan, VP of advertising technology at IAB.

Chris Mejia, director of digital supply chain solutions at IAB, was video conferenced into the room from the W3C in Seattle. According to Mejia, there seems to be little willingness amongst consumer advocates to compromise. “At some point, I want to question if these consumer advocates are really on the side of the consumer,” says Mejia.

Speaking at the IAB conference, Michael Wechsler, founder of TheLaw.com, says that DNT, as currently proposed, “spells death to the small publisher.”

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