Microsoft ‘Do Not Track’ U-turn- User consent now needed for IE browsers

Microsoft has backed-down over its controversial decision to make its ‘Do Not Track’ feature the default on its next Internet Explorer browser.

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The move had sparked criticism from the online marketing industry, saying the move would severly affect the way advertising was conducted on the internet.

In response, Microsoft published a new specification this week which now requires users to turn on the anti-behavioral tracking feature. This means it is no longer the default setting and IE 10 will not comply with the official Do Not Track specification.

The Do Not Track doesn’t attempt to block cookies — instead it is a browser setting that sends a message to every website you visit saying you prefer not to be tracked. That flag is currently optional for sites and web advertising firms to obey, but it’s gaining momentum with Twitter embracing it late last month.

In the last year, major browser developers have developed do-not-track headers, but those headers merely send requests from users to online companies. It’s up to the ad networks and publishers to decide whether to respect the request.

The controversy surrounding tracking emphasises the difficulty of disabling the online tracking powers much of the $30 billion online advertising industry.

Mozilla was the first Web browser to add a do-not-track feature to its Firefox Web browser, even though few advertisers agreed to honor the users’ requests to not be tracked.

Microsoft was the second Web browser to add a do-not-track feature to its Web browser in Internet Explorer 9.

A new draft specification is being worked out by a group of privacy advocates, browser makers, technology firms and online ad companies.

The current proposal states:

“Today we reaffirmed the group consensus that a user agent MUST NOT set a default of DNT:1 or DNT:0, unless the act of selecting that user agent is itself a choice that expresses the user’s preference for privacy. In all cases, a DNT signal MUST be an expression of a user’s preference.”

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