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With Yahoo Making Up Their Own Rules, Is There Any Point to ‘Do Not Track?’

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has begun the push to transition websurfers over to their hot, spanking new Internet Explorer 10. According to the Test Drive page, IE 10 utilizes Blob Builder, Particle Acceleration, Beta Fish IE, and RoboHornet Pro. Or not, because seriously, these all sound like Batman villains to me, so it’s possible I’m misreading the website.

IE 10 also comes with the ‘Do Not Track’ switch in the “on” position because Microsoft knows that you would rather not have those pesky ad networks stalking you all over the web. Given that I’ve spent a week trying to outrun that creepy Mojo Themes monster, I get it, but as a marketer, I must cry foul!

Joining me is Yahoo! Last week, they made it publicly and perfectly clear that they don’t believe that Microsoft is God. As such, they can not make decisions on behalf of us mere mortals. Free will is what sets us apart from pine trees, right? So we should be allowed to decide whether we’re tracked or not. (Psst, you can go in and uncheck the box on IE 10 but how many people will actually bother?)

Because they’re so outraged, Yahoo has decided to rebel against the rules. They say:

In principle, we support “Do Not Track” (DNT). Unfortunately, because discussions have not yet resulted in a final standard for how to implement DNT, the current DNT signal can easily be abused. Recently, Microsoft unilaterally decided to turn on DNT in Internet Explorer 10 by default, rather than at users’ direction. In our view, this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them. It basically means that the DNT signal from IE10 doesn’t express user intent.

Ultimately, we believe that DNT must map to user intent — not to the intent of one browser creator, plug-in writer, or third-party software service. Therefore, although Yahoo! will continue to offer Ad Interest Manager and other tools, we will not recognize IE10’s default DNT signal on Yahoo! properties at this time.

In other words, they’re going to ignore any ‘Do Not Track’ signals coming from IE 10 browsers. Which means that even if you turned off the default and then flipped the switch yourself, you can’t stop them from noticing your interest in Old Navy long sleeve Henleys.

As much as I agree with Yahoo! “in principle,” what’s the point of the system if ad networks are going to decide when and if they’ll follow the rules? This decision effectively removes the decision from the hands of the consumer, transparency goes poof and the whole system falls apart. Do you think other ad networks will play by the rules with Yahoo standing firm on their decision?

So where do we go from here? Will any amount of pressure make Microsoft backpedal on their decision? I suppose they could issue an update that unchecks the default box, but what are the chances that they will? And what about Yahoo? They make themselves sound like the hero for the people here, but most people will see them as just another part of the problem.

I take that back — “most people” won’t give any of this a second thought because even though we often hear complaints about privacy online, I’d bet that the average web surfer doesn’t even know they’re being tracked in the first place. So maybe all that’s really needed is a better online education.