Take That, Microsoft: Digital Ad Community’s Final Word on Default Do Not Track

Companies can ignore DNT browser setting without penalty

The interactive advertising community has an answer to Microsoft's decision to go ahead with its default Do Not Track browser: We won't honor it and we won't penalize companies that ignore it.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, the online advertising industry's self-regulatory body for behavioral targeting, said in a terse statement that it will not sanction or penalize companies that ignore the default settings on Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 browser or any other browsers that are automatically fixed to a do-not-track setting.

"Machine-driven Do Not Track does not represent user choice; it represents browser-manufacturer choice," the DAA's statement said. "Allowing browser manufacturers to determine the kinds of information users receive could negatively impact the vast consumer benefits and Internet experiences delivered by DAA participants and millions of other websites that consumers value."

The statement represents the first time the digital advertising industry has drawn a red line on Microsoft's default DNT browser, which caused a firestorm from the moment the browser company announced it four months ago.

With its DNT browser, Microsoft single-handedly undercut the commitment made by the industry in February to honor an opt-in Do Not Track browser feature by the end of the year.

Despite several months of the Association of National Advertisers and others trying to cajole Microsoft to reverse course, the company hasn't budged.

"This is the most specific we've been, but we needed to provide guidance for the self-regulatory program," said Mike Zaneis, senior vp and general counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. "We were getting tons of questions, from advertisers and advertising agencies, publishers and ad networks. It's the number one issue on the industry's mind."

The digital ad industry's final word on Microsoft comes amid heated debated over whether or not the industry is backing down from its Do Not Track commitments. Last week, the DAA pushed back on the World Wide Web Consortium's attempt to hammer out a standard for Do Not Track, arguing that the W3C should not be setting policy. That has ruffled the feathers of privacy groups who immediately charged that the advertising community was trying to dodge its commitment.

"The DAA has become privacy enemy number one," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "They are trying to kill off DNT because both the Microsoft and the W3C systems challenge the icon-based charade they have perpetrated on the American people. Consumers need to know that the DAA's icon actually is a data collection cover-up scheme."

The DAA program continues to police its ad choices program, which gives consumers the choice to opt-out of targeted online ads.


Microsoft is going ahead with the controversial browser at the end of the month. In a statement, Brendon Lynch, chief privacy officer quoted a recent survey of U.S. and European PC users conducted by the company showed 75 percent want the DNT feature to be turned "on." "This reaffirms our decision to enable DNT in the 'Express Settings' portion of the Windows 8 set-up experience. There, consumers can easily switch DNT off if they'd like."