Microsoft Reverses Position On ‘Do Not Track’

The company will no longer enable ‘Do Not Track’ by default in its browsers

Microsoft has said it will no longer enable the “Do Not Track” (DNT) feature by default in Windows, two years after it angered advertisers by its approach to the feature in Internet Explorer 10.

Microsoft had previously enabled DNT by default in the browser, arguing that this represented the preference of most users, while providing clear instructions for users who might want to switch it off. At the time, advertisers’ organisations said that Microsoft’s move made the standard effectively worthless, with many saying they no longer intended to honour it.


‘User preference’

More recently, changes to the standard itself have come to reflect the advertisers’ point of view, now indicating that “the signal sent must reflect the user’s preference, not the choice of some vendor, institution, site, or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control”. Microsoft said the shift in its position is intended to bring it into line with the standard.

“We are updating our approach to DNT to eliminate any misunderstanding about whether our chosen implementation will comply with the W3C standard,” wrote Microsoft chief privacy officer Brendan Lynch in a blog post. “Without this change, websites that receive a DNT signal from the new browsers could argue that it doesn’t reflect the users’ preference, and therefore, choose not to honour it.”

Windows settings

He said DNT will no longer be switched on by default in Windows’ settings, but Microsoft will provide “clear information” how to turn it on in browser settings.

“This change will apply when customers set up a new PC for the first time, as well as when they upgrade from a previous version of Windows or Internet Explorer,” Lynch wrote.

In 2012 Yahoo said it would no longer honour browsers’ Do Not Track requests, saying no effective standard had emerged. Yahoo had been the first and largest web company to say it would comply with the Do Not Track setting.

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