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Jun
05
2012

In Do Not Track, Consumer Choice Comes First

Chris Babel
CEO | TRUSTe

Last week Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer 10 will ship with Do Not Track (DNT) turned on by default. This announcement has stirred industry debate over appropriate parameters for consumer privacy choice. At TRUSTe we believe privacy is best served when consumers are informed and have the ability to indicate their preference for how a business uses their data. Privacy is highly contextual and individual – what might shock one person’s privacy sensibilities could be perfectly acceptable and even desirable for another person.

When properly informed, we believe individuals are the ones best equipped to make decisions that affect their data privacy. This view was reinforced by a 2011 privacy study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of TRUSTe where consumers indicated they trust themselves most, and believe they are most responsible for protecting their privacy online – far exceeding the role they believe browser manufacturer’s, website owners, government, or a range of other organizations play.  While we respect Microsoft’s continued efforts to provide a high standard for online privacy, we believe a default-on DNT setting will be confusing to consumers who have historically had default internet browser choices set to open, with the ability to adopt more restrictive limits.

The key driver in any major product change that impacts the consumer experience is how the change is communicated and how consumers will be educated to enable them to make an informed choice about their online privacy settings.  We look forward to Microsoft providing additional details about the rollout and their plans to test the impact on consumer browsing behavior and collect consumer feedback to the proposed changes.

The development of cross-industry DNT standards is still ongoing, but it’s clear that a successful framework will require cooperation from all stakeholders.  To deliver on its promise, a browser-based DNT feature requires recognition and technical support from the companies engaged in tracking.  Otherwise, it’s akin to shouting in a crowded room in which no one is listening. Based on initial industry responses, the plan to ship Internet Explorer 10 with DNT turned on by default does not have this broad industry support.

TRUSTe is actively participating in the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group to reach a workable DNT standard that fulfills the needs of consumers, regulators, and the range of businesses in the Internet ecosystem.

Disclosure:  Microsoft is a current TRUSTe client.

 

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