Spotlight: The New York Times Explores Do-Not-Track

September 17, 2012

Microsoft is making a “radical” move, reports Natasha Singer of The New York Times this past weekend (“When the Privacy Button is Already Pressed,” September 15, 2012), but unfortunately it’s not the right move for privacy, consumers and certainly not the digital community.  When one of the nation’s leading news sources sheds light on the Do-Not-Track (DNT) debate that makes for a lively conversation.  Let’s see where this discussion was illuminated properly – and where it may need further clarification.

First, the story clearly points out that consumers – today – already have privacy options available on most of the major browsers (among them, Microsoft Internet Explorer’s current version) where they can actively choose to manage privacy choices.

Second, the story correctly points out that the Digital Advertising Alliance’s consumer education and choice solution – – also enables such choices. This self-regulation, too, has been heralded by the Federal Trade Commission with further support expressed by The White House.

Third, Microsoft’s decision to turn on the Do-Not-Track choice as a default in the forthcoming Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) means that the entire digital ecosystem, which uses information in a de-identified manner to serve interest-based advertising that helps subsidize content that the consumer uses and relies upon, is directly under threat.  As the story reports:

    “That would drastically skew the economic model underlying the Internet,” says Stuart Ingis, counsel to the Digital Advertising Alliance. “The choice is the Internet as we know it, or a much smaller, cannibalized Internet where you don’t have the diversity.”

In short, the privacy choice to be presented by Microsoft in IE10 is not the right choice – and is in fact no choice at all.  This service would lack accountability and transparency among other things – hallmarks of the AdChoices Icon program that DAA operates. Furthermore, Microsoft’s intentions interfere with all these proven public-interest goals, all in giving consumers a false sense of security.

There is also a quote in the story about concerns that consumers may have about online data.  That’s why exists – to provide the transparency that concerned consumers demand. So, if a consumer wishes to choose DNT, he or she may do so in an informed manner – and not out of fear.

The digital community needs to say “no” to Microsoft IE10, unless it comes back to the global DNT default endorsed by the near-entirety of the digital community.


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