In a blog post on the Microsoft On The Issues blog on August 7, Brendon Lynch, the Chief Privacy Officer at Microsoft announced that during Windows 8 setup, Internet Explorer’s Do Not Track (DNT) feature will be set to ON in the Express Settings option.
Internet Explorer’s DNT default caused a bit of stir recently with companies like Google which make money mostly through their advertisement products, as well as advertisers who want better tracking/metrics/targeting, not wanting this feature turned on by default. The argument from privacy advocates (and Microsoft) was that if it is not turned on by default, there is a very small chance it will be turned on deliberately by the user. Mozilla, makers of Firefox, which has stood tall for consumer privacy, curiously does not turn it on by default. (Could it be because their single-largest source of income is royalty payments from Google for keeping Firefox Start Page to be a custom Google search page, and for keeping Google the default search engine in the browser? Can’t say for sure.)
In any case, now that Windows 8 has RTM-ed, we know what the behavior is going to be. Users who go through the setup with Express Settings will have DNT turned on by default. During the setup, it will be made clear that this setting has been turned on, and to change it they can click on Customize Settings during the setup. If someone cares enough about fine tuning the Windows 8 setup, they can choose Customize Settings and they will be shown the choice to turn it off and a link to “Learn More” about the feature along with a Privacy Statement.
Microsoft should be commended for taking a pro-consumer, privacy-first stand and while this may be a competitive play to blunt Google’s biggest revenue generation area, the fact that consumers benefit as a result of the competitive play, is a huge plus in the end.
Let’s wait and see which organization stands up and speaks against this move – publishers, advertisers, Google or the government.