In a move likely to please privacy advocates and anger online marketers in equal measure, Microsoft has confirmed that ‘Do Not Track’ will be the default setting for Internet Explorer 10 users.
While some companies will seemingly go to any lengths to exploit personal information for profit, it seems that others are starting to take notice of what we’ve been saying all along here at Which? – that people value their privacy and will reward companies who respect it.
It’s in this light that we’re excited by Microsoft’s recent announcement that Do Not Track will be installed as the default option for users of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10).
This means that by default you won’t be tracked across the internet by unknown third parties and won’t have adverts served to you based on your past browsing behaviour.
Why this is significant
Lots of companies have been experimenting with anti-tracking tools for some time. Adobe, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft have all developed different technologies aimed at increasing web users’ control of their privacy online.
But until now, if you wanted enhanced privacy you’d have to locate and activate these tools yourself, and using them can be quite daunting for the uninitiated. What’s significant about Microsoft’s latest news is that when it launches Windows 8, this technology will be turned ‘on’ as the default setting in IE10, so you won’t even have to think about it.
This should mean that our privacy is respected automatically – even if we’re not sufficiently aware of concepts such as tracking and online behavioural advertising to know how to protect ourselves.
And if you like having ads based on your interests or taking advantage of social network sharing buttons, you can change the default settings with a couple of clicks.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s move is likely to be unpopular with online marketers. If IE10 users have to specifically opt-in to tracking and online behavioural advertising, there will probably be a significant reduction in the number of users who can be served targeted ads.
A cautionary note
It’s worth noting that our past tests of different anti-tracking technologies identified some worrying issues, with a particular flaw discovered in IE9’s anti-tracking tool. Still, Microsoft’s latest move is certainly a step in the right direction for protecting privacy, and we look forward to testing it out when it’s released.
So, with so many internet browsers competing for your download, would IE10’s default anti-tracking tool tempt you away from Chrome and Firefox?