Last week, Microsoft announced that its newest browser, IE10, set to launch when the Redmond software giant releases Windows 8 later this year, would ship with its ‘Do Not Track’ feature turned on by default.
The announcement attracted a lot of attention, and for good reason.
Given IE’s marketshare, adoption of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s new browser could create a troublesome scenario for advertisers, advertising networks and publishers as large numbers of users would be opted in to Do Not Track without any action required.
While Microsoft’s move may have been a concerning one for anyone involved with online advertising, it was arguably a savvy PR strategy. After all, given all the debate and discussion around online privacy today, making Do Not Track the default could have been a feather in Microsoft’s cap in the eyes of some.
But Microsoft’s decision may have been premature. As reported by Wired’s Ryan Singel, the latest draft of the Do Not Track specification says that a browser cannot send a tracking preference “without a user’s explicit consent.” In other words, a browser shouldn’t tell a site to opt a user out of tracking unless that user has opted in to Do Not Track on her own.
If such language makes it into the final Do Not Track specification, something you can be sure groups representing the interests of ad companies and publishers will be pushing strongly for, Microsoft’s failure to abide by the specification would make IE10 a non-compliant browser.
While Microsoft hasn’t always felt it necessary to adhere to standards (as anyone who has had to deal with nightmarish IE workarounds can tell you), chances are Microsoft will follow the Do Not Track specification here. That’s because Microsoft will want to claim W3C compliance and if it doesn’t play by the rules, some companies may opt to ignore Do Not Track for IE10 users based on the assumption that many of them didn’t ask not to be tracked in the first place.