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Microsoft rolls back commitment to Do Not Track

Gregg Keizer | April 6, 2015
Microsoft today rolled back its commitment to the nearly-dead "Do Not Track" (DNT) standard, saying that it would no longer automatically switch on the signal in its browsers.

Even then, ad industry lobbying groups howled, calling Microsoft's DNT moves "unacceptable" and arguing that IE's setting would "harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation."

Today's decision may have been a reversal of Microsoft's former position — the latter fueled, analysts said, by the company's desire to take the privacy high ground to differentiate IE from rivals like Google's Chrome — but it was largely moot.

DNT has been in tatters for years, progress stymied by the inability of the various parties, particularly privacy advocates and the ad industry, to reach agreement. Not surprisingly, each has called the other obstinate, or worse.

The fact is that only a handful of websites honor the DNT signal. DoNotTrack.us, for instance, lists just 21, with Twitter and Pinterest the biggest names.

Today, Lynch tried to characterize the change as conforming with its previous position, rather than a surrender. "We said in 2012 that browser vendors should clearly communicate to consumers whether the DNT signal is turned off or on, and make it easy for them to change the setting," he wrote. "We did that for IE10 and IE11. And we're continuing to do so with future versions of our browsers."

 

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