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D'OH! Even Microsoft's Own Lobbyists Oppose Microsoft's 'Do Not Track' Plan

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 10: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (R) looks on as Skype CEO Tony Bates speaks during a news conference about the purchase of Skype on May 10, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Here's how unpopular Microsoft's "do not track" policy for Internet Explorer 10 is: Yesterday, the Digital Advertising Alliance — a trade lobby group of which Microsoft is a member — wrote a letter of protest, decrying the anti-ad targeting plan that Microsoft supports as a "flawed approach" that "will significantly undermine the Internet."

Microsoft intends to launch IE10 in a default anti-tracking position, leaving consumers to allow tracking — via cookies — if they so choose. Advertisers oppose the plan because they need tracking cookies to target their ads properly; they also point out that much of the entire web economy is cookie-based, and thus Microsoft's plan potentially wipes out any revenues web publishers might gain from IE users. Up to 43% of users surf the web with Internet Explorer.

On Monday, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Coke and 30 or more other advertisers wrote a humiliating letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, begging him to halt his plan — or at least to prompt consumers to choose one way or the other rather than make the choice for them. They termed do not track (DNT) an "outrage" and an "abuse."

On Tuesday, the DAA followed suit, addressing an angry letter on the topic to the World Wide Web Consortium (an industry group which controls technical policies on the internet). WC3 published a working paper the same day that adopts Microsoft's position, which is that browsers should contain a default DNT signal that should be honored by advertisers unless the user opts differently. The text of the proposal reads:

A user agent MUST have a default tracking preference of unset (not enabled) unless a specific tracking preference is implied [by the user].

The DAA protests, "This flawed approach will result in an outcome that will significantly undermine the Internet and existing consumer benefits." The group wants consumers to make the choice over whether they are tracked, not for that choice to be made for them by Microsoft or a trade group. (The DAA's specific beef with WC3 is that it should only set policy for the technical specifications that ensure the web works seamlessly; it should not be setting social or business policies.)

Here are the companies listed as the DAA's technology partners. We've added a red arrow to indicate the company that now appears to be most at odds with its own lobby group:

Note: Adobe doesn't get off the hook here, either. One of the authors of the WC3 DNT policy is Roy Fielding, a principal scientist at Adobe, which has a web marketing division that relies on targeting.


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