Microsoft has brushed off online advertising industry concerns by pressing ahead with plans to include the ‘do not track’ feature turned on by default in its new operating system – Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10.
Do not track (DNT) allows web surfers to opt out of being tracked by online advertisers and websites as well as analytics services that they do not visit.
Most web browsers support the system but it has to be activated by the user; Microsoft users will now have to physically turn it off.
Despite concerns from legislators – both in Brussels and Washington – the online ad industry has managed to prevent tracking browser activity from being regulated by law. So far, a self regulatory code of practice – the ad icon supported by a website in Europe – has kept the lawmakers off their backs.
But Microsoft’s move breaks ranks with the rest of the industry, with some observers claiming the company is trying to gain the higher moral ground, in protecting users’ privacy.
The big advertising networks have also baulked at the plan. When the company first revealed it may include DNT as standard, WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell wrote to Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer to air his concerns.
Sorrell also dispatched his top digital executive, Mark Read, to meet with Microsoft corporate vice-president of advertising and online Frank Holland over the issue, according to reports. And top Publicis chiefs, including Vivaki chief executive Jack Klues, also urged Microsoft to change its mind.
But Brendon Lynch, chief privacy officer of Microsoft, said: “Our approach to DNT is part of our commitment to privacy by design and putting people first. We believe consumers should have more control over how data about their online behaviour is tracked, shared, and used.”
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