Standards group to bar IE10 from claiming 'Do Not Track' compliance

If Microsoft doesn't change IE10's on-by-default privacy setting, it can't say browser is compliant when standard is finalized, says W3C

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"This is as far as we're willing to go," said Jonathan Mayer, also a researcher with the Stanford CIS. He was referring to the group he called "privacy-leaning parties" who, he said, have compromised as much as they're going to.

Mayer and others argued that IE10, or any browser for that matter, should be allowed to set DNT as on by default, but gave in to keep the discussions on the standard moving. "Absolutely, browsers should be able to set a default. They set all kinds of defaults. But we, and I mean me and many of the others on the privacy-leaning side, did this to show how committed we are to DNT."

Mayer is also one of the two researchers who came up with the HTTP header concept that browsers use to communicate a user's DNT choice desire to websites.

An alternative to an automatic-on setting would be for a browser to display a dialog box the first time it's run, asking the user how he or she wants to set DNT.

At least two other browser vendors -- Mayer declined to name them -- have expressed interest in that concept, he said. "They're seriously thinking how they can position themselves against IE," Mayer said.

According to Mayer, that "first-run" option has been discussed by the DNT group, but not yet decided.

Also still up in the air is what websites and advertisers will be bound to do when they recognize IE10, assuming Microsoft does not change its mind on DNT and the default setting it has planned.

"We don't have agreement on what the ramifications are. Can ad networks ignore a tracking request from IE10?" Mayer said. "Google and Yahoo and Adobe said they should be able to ignore the header from IE10, but Mozilla and Apple have said that ad networks should not ignore it."

Microsoft was not available for comment on the W3C draft specification that would bar it from advertising IE10 as compliant with DNT.

Mozilla also did not reply to questions related to the ongoing discussions of the W3C group.

Microsoft has not said when it will ship a final version of IE10 -- apparently that will not happen until Windows 8 launches later this year -- but enabled the DNT signal with the sixth early build of the browser that was bundled with Windows 8 Release Preview. That sneak peek debuted a week ago today and is available for free downloading from Microsoft's website.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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