Steve Minichini, who leads the interactive marketing group at the advertising agency TargetCast, disagreed that IE10 had been a trigger for any recent anti-DNT blitz on the part of advertisers. "We've been talking about this for years," Minichini said in a Wednesday interview.
He acknowledged that the debate had heated up, but blamed Microsoft. "The main reason there's so much conversation is the principle of it," said Minichini, referring to IE10's on-by-default setting. "IE10 will not have a big foothold in the market at first, but as the years roll on, year after year, it will grow. [Microsoft's move] is just a marketing strategy to grab headlines."
Some would agree with Minichini's point: Many Microsoft watchers and analysts have interpreted Microsoft's decision to push users to DNT as a way for it to differentiate the browser from competitors.
Microsoft is on somewhat shaky ground with IE; the browser has lost share for years, although that decline has slowed during 2012, according to California-based Net Applications, which on Monday said all versions of IE accounted for 53.6% of those used in September. (Irish metrics firm StatCounter, however, says that IE has shrunk to just 32.7%, second behind Google's Chrome.)
IE10 has a negligible share: Neither Net Applications nor StatCounter have begun tracking it.
It's unclear how the W3C will, or even if it will, resolve its differences on IE10 to, for instance, either demand that websites honor its DNT signal or allow them to ignore it.
Harris and Brookman of the CDT wondered where it would end, too. But one possibility would kick off what they called a "privacy arms race" pitted with tit-for-tat responses by advertisers and Microsoft to block, unblock and re-block DNT.
"The result would be turning the online ecosystem into an ever-escalating war between privacy interests and advertisers, precisely the war that a negotiated Do Not Track setting was designed to avoid," said Harris and Brookman.
Others have noticed a change in advertisers' tone in the most recent DNT discussions. Last week, Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz told the Wall Street Journal that the industry "appears to be backing off from its commitments" made last February.
The FTC backs Do Not Track, but Leibowitz has not expressly thrown his weight behind Microsoft and IE10.
Microsoft on Wednesday declined to address the ANA's allegations, instead repeating a previous statement that said, "Our approach to DNT in Internet Explorer 10 is part of our commitment to privacy by design and putting people first."