However Evidon, the Association of National Advertisers and the IAB all argued that DNT should always be opt-in and claimed Microsoft had jumped the gun before the industry had reached a consensus on what types of data tracking threatened online privacy.
“It sent a political message that Microsoft cared about privacy,” said Zaneis. “The unfortunate result was that it actually undermined a lot of the progress that maybe could have been made on the Do Not Track discussion, because it took that signal away from the consumer and made it the decision of a company.”
Many industry insiders were particularly displeased because Microsoft had initially praised an agreement by the legislation. The Digital Advertising Alliance agreed that DNT should be opt-in.
Its stance back in 2012 seemed to be in the interests of gaining consumer favor for its own browser.
Following its reversal Friday, Microsoft stuck to its consumer-first narrative.
“We said in 2012 that browser vendors should clearly communicate to consumers whether the DNT signal is turned off or on, and make it easy for them to change the setting,” Lynch wrote. “We did that for IE 10 and IE 11. And we’re continuing to do so with future versions of our browsers.”
Microsoft’s decision arrives when DNT has receded from the public discussion and is much less relevant than it was a few years ago, especially given the rise of mobile and new ways to follow consumers across channels.
“Do Not Track had some potential three or four years ago. It was beat into the ground by overly complex proposals and privacy advocates making it more complex,” Zaneis said. “At the end of the day it was an idea that had an interesting spark but it never ignited and that spark has gone out.”