Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
When Microsoft announced this summer that the version of Internet Explorer which will be packaged with Windows 8 will enable a Do Not Track feature by default, they ruffled a few feathers; Namely, the feathers of advertisers. These ad distributors use tracking software in order to target specific users. If, for instance, a user is searching for new apartments in Manhattan, these advertisers could serve up ads for cable Internet services in the area, and so on. These advertisers, along with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) called out Microsoft for this choice, saying “An ordinary user agent MUST NOT send a Tracking Preference signal without a user´s explicit consent.”
Today, the board for the Association of National Advertisers has sent along another note to Microsoft´s CEO Steve Ballmer, saying the choice to enable DNT by default is not only harmful to advertisers, but it will also limit competition.
The letter, which was signed by such heavyweights as American Express, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company and Wal-Mart Stores, says, in part: “If Microsoft moves forward with this default setting, it will undercut the effectiveness of our members´ advertising and, as a result, drastically damage the online experience by reducing the Internet content and offerings that such advertising supports.”
“This result will harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy.”
Microsoft had earlier claimed their decision to turn on DNT by default was merely a way to provide visibility to users about how their data was being shared and allowing them to see just how valuable their clicks are to advertisers. After today´s letter to Ballmer, a Microsoft spokesperson declined to give an additional comment, referring only to a previous article co-written by Microsoft´s vice president.
These advertisers have good reason to worry about Microsoft´s decision to turn on DNT by default. According to the letter to Ballmer, Internet Explorer has a 43% market share in the U.S., providing quite the platform for these advertisers to reach a sizable number of eyeballs. If consumers don´t have to take any actions to turn this tracking back on, or, more likely, don´t even know they could be tracked, these advertisers are losing out on a large chunk of their revenue.
The ANA also claims that by making this decision on behalf of the customers, Microsoft is making a choice which, according to advertisers, is bad for the consumers. The board says in their letter to Ballmer: “By making this selection for consumers and presenting it in the terms that Microsoft has used, you are presenting the wrong choice to consumers and making a choice for them in a way that is fundamentally bad for consumer interests and the Internet services that they cherish, and even worse concealing this trade-off from them.”
The ANA then makes the comparison to the television model, saying if 43% of people decided not to watch commercials during their programming, the entire television industry would suffer. As a result, everyone would no longer be able to watch their favorite shows. In essence, the ANA are saying, “You need us, whether you like us or not.”
Microsoft Windows 8 has been in public data for many months, but the final and finished product will be available in a few weeks, on October 26th.