Adding further evidence that ‘Do Not Track’ (DNT) is some type of sick joke on the privacy-conscious public, Yahoo announced late Friday that it will not support the anti-monitoring signal in Microsoft Internet Explorer 10, the first browser to come with DNT turned on by default. Why? Because it’s good for you — that’s why, you fool.
Do Not Track is currently an option in all major Web browsers. When turned on, DNT tells websites’ third-party advertisers that the user does not what his or her Web activity monitored for the purpose of receiving targeted advertisements. That said, only a fraction of users take advantage of DNT, with just 8.6 percent of Firefox users enabling DNT, as of May. Unlike Firefox or Chrome, however, IE10 automatically turns on the DNT signal, rather than requiring users to enable it themselves — a distinction that has Yahoo calling foul.
“Recently, Microsoft unilaterally decided to turn on DNT in Internet Explorer 10 by default, rather than at users’ direction,” wrote Yahoo in a blog post. “In our view, this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them. It basically means that the DNT signal from IE10 doesn’t express user intent.”
And so, Yahoo will take its own unilateral action by ignoring any DNT signal that comes from IE10 in order to preserve that coveted personalized user experience.
“Our users have come to expect a personalized Yahoo! experience tailor-made for their lives — whether they’re checking local weather, sports scores, stock quotes, daily news, or viewing ads on our site,” wrote Yahoo. “We fundamentally believe that the online experience is better when it is personalized.”
This argument — that users should choose not to have personalized online experiences rather than the other way around — is the current battle cry of the online advertising industry at large. Both the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the two largest online ad industry groups, have derided Microsoft’s decision to make DNT the default setting in IE10 as not representative of user choice, and a dangerous move for the ad-supported Web.
“Machine-driven Do Not Track does not represent user choice,” wrote DAA in a recent statement, “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 websites that consumers value.”
Microsoft has defended its decision to enable DNT by default, saying that doing so “empowers people” to make choices about their privacy.
“Just because the signal is turned on doesn’t mean that a consumer wants no services that involve tracking,” said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a recent speech (PDF). “What it means is that consumers need to be empowered to make their own choices, and advertisers and ad networks need to be able to inform consumers in a well-understood and broadly established manner so that those ad networks that are acting responsibly can inform people and get a user’s consent, even while a consumer might choose to withhold that consent from another service.”