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Microsoft ticks off advertisers with IE10 'Do Not Track' policy

The "Do Not Track" feature will be turned on by default in Internet Explorer 10, a move that's upsetting the advertising community.

Microsoft's decision to turn off Web site tracking by default in IE10 is not sitting well with advertisers.

The Do Not Track feature prevents third-party Web sites from tracking your online activity. Web sites that receive the Do Not Track, or DNT, signal from your browser are supposed to honor that request, just as telemarketers are not supposed to call people on a "do not call" registry.

The ability to know where you go and what you do online concerns many users and privacy advocates. But advertisers use such information to determine how and where to target their ads.

Such an option can be enabled or disabled in the browser but has always been disabled by default, allowing the user to make the decision. IE10 in Windows 8 would be the first browser to ship with the option turned on. The Digital Advertising Alliance, which represents advertisers, said it had agreed to honor the DNT policy as long as it was not enabled by default.

The DAA is asserting that Microsoft's decision about IE10 runs counter to the agreement set up earlier this year with the White House, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Stu Ingis, general counsel for the DAA, told the Journal that Microsoft's decision is "unilateral" and one that "raises a lot of concern." Advertisers support the policy as long as it's made by the user, not by one browser company, he added.

Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch tried to justify the choice to turn on DNT by default in IE10 in a blog post yesterday. Lynch said that Microsoft made the decision because the company believes that consumers should have more control over how their online activities are tracked, shared, and used.

"While there is still work to do in agreeing on an industry-wide definition of DNT, we believe turning on Do Not Track by default in IE10 on Windows 8 is an important step in this process of establishing privacy by default, putting consumers in control and building trust online," Lynch explained.

Aside from Microsoft's decision, gaps in the entire DNT policy remain between advertisers and the government, according to the Journal.

Ad companies are supposed to start honoring DNT requests by the end of 2012.

But so far they've only agreed not to use the information they collect about users, while the Federal Trade Commission wants them to stop collecting the information in the first place.