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In June, Microsoft announced that it was putting its weight behind Do Not Track (DNT) efforts and would ship the next version of Internet Explorer with a DNT preference enabled.
A week later, the company's plans were called into question as it became clear that Microsoft's approach would run afoul of the current DNT specification draft, which states that a browser can't send a DNT preference "without a user's explicit consent."
So where does Microsoft stand now?
Yesterday, Brendon Lynch, Microsoft's Chief Privacy Officer, took to the Microsoft on the Issues blog to clarify its plans for DNT in Internet Explorer 10.
For users being introduced to IE10 through Windows 8, the DNT setting will be configured during setup:
In the Windows 8 set-up experience, customers will be asked to choose between two ways of configuring a number of settings: “Express Settings” or “Customize.” By providing a simple experience that allows customers to set their preferences, we’ve sought to balance ease of use with choice and control. The recommended Express Settings are designed to expedite and streamline the overall set-up process, and, if selected, generally improve a customer’s privacy, security, and overall experience on the device.
When selecting Express Settings, Windows 8 users will receive "prominent notice" that DNT will be enabled if they proceed. For Windows 7 users upgrading to IE10, DNT will be enabled by default. Once again, a "prominent notice" that DNT is enabled will be displayed so that users wishing to turn it off can do so.
Obviously, many publishers and ad networks won't be pleased with Microsoft's approach. Previously, when news broke that Microsoft was going to automatically enable DNT in IE10, top ad agency executives reached out to Microsoft, encouraging it to reconsider. Some even tried to convince Microsoft that it would be helping its arch rival Google. "We made the point to Microsoft that if anything this will strengthen search, and strengthen Google," explained John Montgomery, the COO of Group M Interaction, a WPP company.
But apparently Microsoft wasn't convinced with the industry's arguments, and in "putting people first," the Redmond software giant will seemingly force publishers and players in the digital advertising ecosystem to deal with its approach.
The question: even if Microsoft technically allows users to make a choice when they set up Windows 8 or upgrade to IE10, will this approach be considered compliant with the DNT spec given that the process essentially forces the user to opt out from DNT as opposed to selecting from two choices?
If it isn't and some players decide to ignore IE10's DNT preference as a result, DNT could quickly become an EU cookie law-sized debacle.