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01 June 2012, 14:48

Microsoft activates default Do Not Track in Internet Explorer 10

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Zoom Users can check whether their browser supports Do Not Track at
The sixth platform preview of Internet Explorer 10, included in the release preview of Windows 8, not only includes the Do Not Track feature, it also has it activated by default. This makes Microsoft the leader among browser makers in protecting users from over-curious advertising networks.

Do Not Track was originally proposed by Mozilla. When used, the browser forwards a special HTTP header to the web server on accessing a web site. This declares that the user does not want advertising networks to use cookies or other technologies to record which web sites they visit. Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 9 already support Do Not Track; Opera and Chrome have announced plans to do so. Many of the technical details of the prospective standard still need to be finalised and are currently under discussion at the W3C. The latest draft standard was published on 29 May.

Although many of the details of Do Not Track are still up for grabs, the feature, if it achieves widespread adoption, is likely to hurt large advertising networks which make their money by collecting data on web user behaviour – in particular Microsoft's rival Google. But Microsoft partner Facebook, which tracks users via its social plugins, would also be affected by Do Not Track.

On its privacy blog, Do Not Track inventor Mozilla has expressed its appreciation of Microsoft's commitment to Do Not Track. Alex Fowler, who is responsible for privacy policy at Mozilla, hopes that this will raise the profile of this issue amongst the public. But his praise is also mixed with a hint of criticism. For Mozilla, it is important that it is the user who takes the decision, and not the software producer. That, he notes, is why Firefox doesn't activate Do Not Track by default.


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