Microsoft has been one of the strongest proponents of Do Not Track since it announced that Internet Explorer 10 would turn it on by default. Advertisers didn’t exactly like this, and even threatened to ignore all signals from Internet Explorer if Microsoft didn’t back down. Despite the threat, the Redmond giant didn’t back down, and is now even marketing Do Not Track as a key feature of Internet Explorer.
Microsoft released a new ad for Internet Explorer today that talks about the differences between information you want to share with others and information you want to keep private. It never explicitly states browsing history as the kind of information you want to keep private, but it does say that it keeps your data private with Do Not Track.
The Do Not Track debate is far more complicated than what Microsoft has presented in its latest ad. Microsoft may have implemented Do Not Track into Internet Explorer, but that doesn’t mean that advertising companies will suddenly stop tracking your online movements. In fact, these companies have even threatened to ignore all Do Not Track signals from Internet Explorer until Microsoft backs down.
Since then, the Do Not Track debate has grown exponentially with Congress getting in on the action with some Congressmen saying that the government needs to introduce Do Not Track laws. Of course, such debates in Congress will probably fall victim to the same problem plaguing the debate between private companies and privacy advocates – what does Do Not Track actually mean?
Still, it’s strange to see Microsoft advertising a feature that’s not only very divisive, but also possibly ineffective. There’s no legal mandate stopping advertising firms from ignoring Do Not Track signals, and Microsoft’s insistence that it be the turned on by default may actually do more harm than good until there’s a consensus on what Do Not Track actually means.