Toward building consumer trust and a Do Not Track solution

Last week, we launched a consumer privacy awareness campaign to educate people about the tools and technologies Microsoft provides to help protect their personal information online. We prioritize privacy because we know it’s important to our customers. One of the tangible outcomes of more than a decade of investment in our comprehensive privacy program is the range of useful privacy settings across our product portfolio. Internet Explorer offers a great example— InPrivate Browsing, Tracking Protection Lists and Do Not Track (DNT) are three examples of technologies we’ve developed that help customers protect their privacy as they browse the Web.

DNT has enormous potential. However, consumers will not realize the benefit of DNT until we collectively agree on what it means and how it should be implemented.

As the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group prepares to meet again next week, Microsoft will continue to collaborate with members of the Working Group and participate fully in the process with the sincere hope that a final and effective DNT standard will be adopted. Further, we are eager for the W3C process to deliver a consistent, agreed upon response to DNT signals so they provide meaningful outcomes for the consumers who have selected the DNT setting.

One of the important discussion points in the W3C process is whether consumers themselves are making meaningful choices about using DNT. After we initially announced that we would enable DNT by default in Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) on Windows 8, we heard feedback that consumers should be able to make a clearer choice. We listened to this feedback and subsequently announced that during Windows 8 setup, customers could either choose “Express Settings” with DNT turned on, or “Custom Settings” and turn DNT off if they’d like. And customers continue to have the choice after setup to turn DNT off or on via their IE10 browser controls at any time.

We also continue to believe that there needs to be an easy and effective way for responsible advertisers and ad networks to inform consumers and obtain persistent consent for their services. A consumer who has turned on DNT may still want specific services that involve tracking. That’s why we support the development and implementation of a “permissions API” (Application Programming Interface), a mechanism that would give consumers more fine-grained control over their privacy and allow them to grant specific permission for collection and use of their information even when DNT is on.

Just over a week ago, U.S. Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W. Virginia) held a hearing on DNT aimed at maximizing protection for consumers. And FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently said consumers are awaiting an effective and functioning DNT system. Others, ranging from consumer groups to industry and academia, are grappling with related and important privacy questions while working toward stronger protections for consumers.

Consumers expect strong privacy protections to be built into technologies they use every day, and for companies to be responsible stewards of their data. DNT is an important step toward meeting those expectations. Microsoft is committed to the W3C process and helping bring an effective DNT standard to fruition for consumers.

Tags: , , , ,