One of the strong points which Microsoft has been touting to anyone who will listen of late is that it’s latest browser IE10 is delivered by default with the Do Not Track (DNT) feature enabled. There has been concern for some time around how much of our online behavior is tracked by advertisers. The DNT initiative which was championed by the White House amongst others was supposed to address this. The problem for advertisers like those signed on through Yahoo or Google is that with DNT turned on in a browser Yahoo or Google can’t offer the targeted campaigns focused on behavior or intent which they can offer with DNT disabled.
Yahoo has just announced that it will ignore DNT flags in IE10…so if you are an advertiser through Yahoo you will still be able to buy behaviorally targeted campaigns on IE 10. It’s an understandable commercially driven decision where Yahoo puts the interests of its advertisers ahead of privacy concerns. What’s fascinating is the convoluted argument Yahoo makes to justify its position. In short they argue that DNT should only apply when an end user explicitly sets the switch…not because it was set as a default by a browser. The vast majority of users never futz with settings and select the default DNT off installation. They also argue that ignoring DNT allows them to offer a wide range of non commercial content targeted on end user interest. It’s a clever argument, but the corollary might be that popup and virus blockers should only apply when users explicitly choose to block those items. You could argue (and many do) that the default should be DNT in all cases with users having to enable tracking for it to apply. Google has already indicated that they will deliver Chrome with DNT functionality but off as default. Firefox and Safari also allows users to choose to enable DNT if they want to….but are also delivered with DNT off.
So it looks like DNT is pretty much dead in the water….or at least holed below the water line. Google says it will respect it where it finds on because the end user enabled it. In any event IE’s browser share is now down to about 22% which means DNT will not apply to roughly 78% of browsers minus the handful of end users who figure out how to turn it on minus the fraction of advertisers delivered by Yahoo….let’s call it a round 85% of advertisers who are effectively free to continue to track in a DNT world.