February 14, 2011, 3:40 PM — In sending code for the “do
not track” function it built into Internet Explorer 9 to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Microsoft got a little more attention that it might have as the third of the major browser makers to build DNT into their apps.
All “Do Not Track” actually does is put a note in your HTTP header saying you’d prefer advertisers not track your activity.
It doesn’t require that they respect your wish; it doesn’t do anything to enforce the wish – like prevent them from adding Velcro cookies
to your profile so they can stick to you like a burr.
It doesn’t require the sites you visit respect your privacy any more than they currently do.
And it doesn’t address a list of advertisers who, realizing privacy is important to potential customers, have already signed up to publicly
forswear stealth tracking mechanisms that pay you back for visiting their sites by profiting from you without your knowledge.
Microsoft announced it would add Tracking Protection to IE 9 just days after the Federal Trade Commission issued a report warning that tracking is a growing privacy issue and, basically, asking advertisers to stop.
Actually, its approach was to ask consumers to ask advertisers to stop, by putting their name on the equivalent of a “do not call”
list to make advertisers more efficient by allowing them to either ignore all the requests at once, or mine the list for confirmed email addresses.
The Dept. of Commerce also put out a report on tracking cookies and privacy, but took a much softer line on advertisers. Basically, it seemed to say, if you want to go online, you have to put up with being observed and having ads targeted to your behavior.
They’re both missing the boat, both on privacy and on their responsibility toward consumers.