About two years of setting the world's most installed browser to refrain from tracking users by default, Microsoft is doing a 180. Now, the "Do Not Track" option will be disabled by default.
Coming from the company that owns the people-tracking Kinect, the move to reverse course on tracking could be perceived as a malevolent move. Microsoft, however, believes that the decision helps it better comply with the standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium.
The issue here is that Microsoft could be perceived as making a decision to disable tracking on behalf of users. Some users may not care about being tracked and Microsoft's decision to disable tracking mutes the expression of consumers, going by the reasoning seen in the latest W3C March 2015 draft on Tracking Preference Expression.
"The basic principle is that a tracking preference expression is only transmitted when it reflects a deliberate choice by the user," stated the W3C. "In the absence of user choice, there is no tracking preference expressed."
The "Do Not Track" signal transmitted by the browser must be sent because that is the message the user wants to send and it should be sent merely as "the choice of some vendor," stated the W3C.
"Without this change, websites that receive a DNT signal from the new browsers could argue that it doesn't reflect the users' preference, and therefore, choose not to honor it," said Microsoft.
The standard, in which users must express their wish to browse without being tracked, also extends to extensions. Because browser extensions have the ability to change tracking settings, these user agents must be clear in stating their ability to do so and they should give users the ability to specify whether or not they want to be tracked, according to the W3C.
"A user agent extension must not alter the tracking preference expression or its associated configuration unless the act of installing and enabling that extension is an explicit choice by the user for that tracking preference, or the extension itself complies with all of the requirements this protocol places on a user agent," stated the W3C.
As for Microsoft and its browsers, Internet Explorer and the upcoming Spartan browser, the Redmond-based company says it is holding true to its word and continuing to let consumers know whether tracking will be turned on or off by default.
"We did that for IE 10 and IE 11," said Microsoft. "And we're continuing to do so with future versions of our browsers."