Microsoft has announced that its new Internet Explorer 10 browser will block the tracking of users’ browsing records by advertisers. There will be a ‘do not track’ command that will be turned on by default, though users can turn it off.
According to this Outlaw.com story, the American Association of National Advertisers has complained about this. Tracking, it says, allows for advertising better targeted to users’ interests, thus more likely to be effective, thus more lucrative for the advertisers, thus providing more money to support the ‘free’ content on the Internet. Blocking tracking by default ‘takes the information out of the information economy’.
Tracking data "also supports robust consumer protections including safety mechanisms that range from fraud detection in financial services to prevention of online threats," say the advertisers.
Privacy advocates have been objecting for some time to the ability of advertisers to follow Internet users from site to site and to collect data on where people have gone, even for commercial reasons, without users’ express consent or (probably) knowledge. Presumably Microsoft has been listening to them.
It’s pretty clear that whichever way the browser is set by default is the way that most users are going to leave it set. So the advertisers are happy enough that users have the ability to turn off tracking, knowing that most will not do so.
Who is right here?
Is there a role for the law, i.e. state intervention of some kind in this decision?