It is rare thing these days to be able to applaud a large company for putting the interests of it's customers ahead of it's, but it appears we are able to do so for Microsoft...of all companies...as it appears they have "Do Not Track" enabled as the default in the latest iteration of IE. I can only hope all other browser manufacturers follow suit.
|Microsoft deserves hearty applause for its decision, announced last week, to make "Do Not Track" the default privacy setting on the next version of Internet Explorer. The company is taking a pioneering stand with this nod to the privacy rights we used to take for granted. Naturally, the move is not endearing it to online advertisers.|
By June 3, 2012 | By Caron Carlson
As someone who has spent a career working for publishing companies, I understand the importance of advertising, as does Microsoft.
"Online advertising is an important part of the economy supporting publishers and content owners and helping businesses of all shapes and sizes to go to market," Brendon Lynch, Microsoft chief privacy officer, wrote in a blog post May 31. "Of course, we hope that many consumers will see this value and make a conscious choice to share information in order to receive more personalized ad content. For us, that is the key distinction. Consumers should be empowered to make an informed choice and, for these reasons, we believe that for IE10 in Windows 8, a privacy-by-default state for online behavioral advertising is the right approach."
Breaking the Paper Habit
Webinar | Now available on-demand
Companies are managing more digital content-but that doesn't mean paper-based records are easing up. Even in today's digital world, 32 percent of offices are seeing an increase in paper use. Find out what to avoid and best practices to follow to make a paperless workplace a reality. Register Now!
Sign up for our FREE newsletter for more news like this sent to your inbox!
Microsoft seems to understand that privacy isn't just some quaint, old-fashioned notion, fought over for the sake of academics. Privacy matters at a concrete level to individuals, and it matters to businesses. What benefit does it serve any company to have its employees' Internet use tracked by advertisers, competitors or otherwise?
Make no mistake, though, the Do Not Track standard is no stringent privacy protection to begin with. It is a self-regulatory process in which visitors can let websites know that they do not want their browsing tracked, but ultimately sites are free to ignore the visitor's wish. The details on how compliant sites will respond to a DNT flag are still being worked out, and advertisers are trying to shape them in their favor. But regardless of the details, DNT will not preclude tracking; it will simply require that users understand that their browsing activity is being monitored and then agree to it. For those consumers who see a benefit in hyper-personalized ads, hooray. Track away.
It is easier for advertisers, of course, if the burden of protecting privacy falls entirely on the Internet user's shoulders, but we should not have to opt in to privacy any more than we should have to opt in to free speech. Privacy is a right that warrants respect. Those who do respect it will earn users' trust, which is not lost on Microsoft, a company in the game for the long haul.
"In a world where consumers live a large part of their lives online, it is critical that we build trust that their personal information will be treated with respect, and that they will be given a choice to have their information used for unexpected purposes," Microsoft's Lynch wrote last week. "While there is still work to do in agreeing on an industry-wide definition of DNT, we believe turning on Do Not Track by default in IE10 on Windows 8 is an important step in this process of establishing privacy by default, putting consumers in control and building trust online."
Some say that Microsoft's decision on IE10 could end up undermining the new privacy standard before it even gets off the ground. Advertisers, represented by the Digital Advertising Alliance, signed on in February to preliminary DNT recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission on the condition that the standard would not be made a default. Microsoft's decision on IE10, therefore, could be enough to send the DAA and its ilk packing. Indeed, the alliance reacted last week with a hint of a threat:
"Microsoft's technology announcement appears to include requirements that are inconsistent with the consensus achieved over the appropriate standards for collecting and using web viewing data (and which today are enforced by strong self-regulation)," said Stu Ingis, the DAA's general counsel. "The DAA is very concerned that this unilateral decision by one browser maker--made without consultation within the self-regulatory process--may ultimately narrow the scope of consumer choices, undercut thriving business models, and reduce the availability and diversity of the Internet products and services that millions of American consumers currently enjoy at no charge."
Microsoft may be just "one browser maker," but it has taken a valiant stand in making Do Not Track the default option in IE10. I believe it will reap far greater rewards by virtue of the customer loyalty that ensues (not to mention by not forcing the regulator's hand) than it ever could from behavioral advertising. - Caron