Ad Agencies Oppose Default ‘Do-Not-Track’

DAA Concerned by Microsoft Setting it as Default Option on Explorer 10 Browser

WASHINGTON — The largest digital advertising group said it opposes a default “do not track” setting on Microsoft’s new browser.

Last February, the Digital Advertising Alliance got praise from the Federal Trade Commission and the Obama administration for agreeing to a browserbased do-not-track option that would allow Web users to opt out of behavioral advertising and would be respected across those participating in DAA’s selfregulatory program, which DAA pegged at about 90% of its members.

But that was an opt-in program. Microsoft is making “do not track” the default setting in its forthcoming Explorer 10 browser. DAA has been nervous about that prospect since it was announced in early June and last week, as the browser launch neared, put its collective foot down.

“Allowing browser manufacturers to determine the kinds of information users receive could negatively impact the vast consumer benefits and Internet experiences delivered by DAA participants and millions of other websites that consumers value,” the DAA said.

Two of the most active House members on the privacy front said that is simply a defense of putting profits ahead of privacy.

Reacting to DAA’s line in the digital sand, Privacy Caucus co-chairs Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) said if consumers want to be tracked, they should have to affirmatively agree to it, something the two congressmen have been pushing for in a bill targeted at protecting children’s online information.

Reps. Markey and Barton gave advertisers some credit for their voluntary guidelines, but said those were not enough and legislation would be needed to establish stronger privacy laws. Elsewhere on the privacy front:

• Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, has sent letters to Reed-Elsevier (Lexis-Nexis), Spokeo, Experian and a half dozen other data brokers seeking detailed info on how they compile and sell consumer information. “Collecting, storing and selling information about Americans raises all types of questions that require careful scrutiny,” Rockefeller said. “While these practices may offer some benefits to consumers, they deserve to know what’s being collected about them and how companies profit from their information.” Rockefeller wants answers by Nov. 2.

• A coalition of groups last week warned the Federal Communications Commission to be careful how it collects and/or shares consumer online information as part of its consumer broadband-speed tests. In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, Center for Media and Democracy, and more than a half-dozen others said they were concerned consumers were turning over information to the government that could be used to “review” their Internet activity “without due process or judicial scrutiny.” The groups are worried the test gives the FCC too much access to personal information without enough checks and balances. The FCC did not have a comment at press time.

• The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has scheduled the next mobile app stakeholder meeting for Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C. The NTIA is trying to come up with guidelines for mobile app privacy as part of the Obama administration’s privacy Bill of Rights.

• A decision is expected almost any day on whether the FTC will pursue an antitrust suit against Google for dominance in search and online advertising.


A key adverstising trade group is opposing Microsoft’s decision to make “do not track” a browser default setting.