In May, Microsoft announced that it was building “do not track” by default into its new browser: Internet Explorer 10. If a user decided to stay with that option, the browser would prevent third-party groups from acquiring information about the users’ online activities for marketing purposes. In other words, by default, IE10 prevents marketing groups from accessing a users’ searches, which YouTube videos he / she is watching, and more.
While some claim that Microsoft’s design is a victory for privacy rights on the Internet, others argue that it will hurt advertisers.
Many argue that the default do-not-track option inhibits advertisers ability to market effectively.
According to an article by Natasha Springer in The New York Times, “The advent of Do Not Track threatens the barter system wherein consumers allow sites and third-party ad networks to collect information about their online activities in exchange for open access to maps, e-mail, games, music, social networks and whatnot.” According to marketing execs, their ability to collect data on consumers enables them to advertise effectively, which, in turn, allows them to provide important services at little cost or even free of charge.
At the beginning of October, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) wrote an intensely hostile letter to the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. According to the letter, Microsoft’s action “will undercut the effectiveness of our members’ advertising and, as a result, drastically damage the online experience by reducing the Internet content and offerings that such advertising supports. This result will harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy.”
This could be an important development in internet marketing to watch in the weeks to come. After all, Microsoft has a significant portion of the market share in the United States (43%). “By setting the Internet Explorer browser to block data collection,” ANA wrote, “Microsoft’s action could potentially eliminate the ability to collect web viewing data of up to 43 percent of the browsers used by Americans.”
According to Mike Zaneis, the general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “If we do away with this relevant advertising, we are going to make the Internet less diverse, less economically successful, and frankly, less interesting.”
In the end, whether it be for privacy rights, advertisers, or both, Microsoft’s seemingly small decision has significant ramifications for the web.