FTC's Rosch Criticizes Microsoft's Do-Not-Track Default

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A Federal Trade Commission member is taking issue with Microsoft's plan to turn on do-not-track by default in the next version of the Internet Explorer browser.

"Microsoft's default DNT setting means that Microsoft, not consumers, will be exercising choice as to what signal the browser will send," J. Thomas Rosch said in a letter to the Internet standards group World Wide Web Consortium.

He specifically said he disagrees with Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), who endorse Microsoft's planned default settings. Markey and Barton said Tuesday in a letter to the W3C tracking protection committee that a default-on setting for do-not-track will "provide consumers with better control and choice with respect to their personal information."

The W3C, a voluntary group that includes industry representatives as well as privacy advocates, is meeting this week in hopes of forging a consensus about standards for interpreting a browser-based do-not-track signal.

The initiative dates to December 2010, when the Federal Trade Commission called on Web companies to develop a mechanism that would enable consumers to easily opt out of all online behavioral advertising. Browser developers responded with do-not-track headers that could be activated. Those headers send a signal to Web companies, but it's up to the companies to decide whether to respect the signal.

Shortly after Microsoft announced that it would automatically turn on the do-not-track signal, industry groups indicated that they might ignore headers that were activated by default.

Two weeks ago, some members of the W3C said in a conference call that do-not-track should only be turned on by users, but the group hasn't yet issued final standards. Some observers expect that the standards group will decide against default settings -- a move that would probably force Microsoft to retreat from its plan.

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2 comments about "FTC's Rosch Criticizes Microsoft's Do-Not-Track Default".
  1. Derek Wynne from career break , June 21, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.
    I agree that Microsoft's approach does not signify user's 'consent' not to be tracked, but I applaud their approach. At least we are now having some serious debate on this matter. And as for Rosch and the others who are against the Microsoft approach, where is the intellectual argument that users have "consented" to be tracked? Is it legitimate to, effectively, 'secretly' track users behaviour across the www? You could make it 'half-legit' by at least providing a clear and up-front statement as to the 'tracking' employed and its benefits - and with an easy link to an opt-out. BUT the industry, en masse, has chosen not to do so - if users are lucky they might possibly find a link to a 50 page t&c's doc with the privacy and tracking stuff 'suitably hidden'!
  2. Chad White from Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud , June 21, 2012 at 1:44 p.m.
    Why is no one acknowledging that the very act of using the next IE is the consumer making a choice not to be tracked? This is not the year 2000. Consumers have several browsers to chose from, and for many consumers downloading/using IE is easier than trying to figure out how to turn off tracking in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. Using IE is the equivalent of turning off tracking.