Do Not Track is becoming the subject of a heated argument. You'd think that the argument would be between browser makers along with privacy groups versus advertisers.
But it's actually Microsoft versus everyone else. Do Not Track started as a proposal from Mozilla on a way of notifying sites that users don't want their habits being tracked.
The feature, at its core, can't enforce anything, it simply signals the user's choice. Mozilla built the feature into Firefox and linked it with an older similar, albeit more convoluted, way for users to request the removal of tracking cookies.
Do Not Track started gaining steam and most large advertisers got behind it, some perhaps because the FTC also supports it. Europe is a big fan of Do Not Track as well as it promises to fix the entire "cookie law" mess.
The feature is on its way to becoming a web standard. The W3C working group is handling the process. It was all going smoothly up until last week, when Microsoft decided that Internet Explorer 10 was going to come with Do Not Track enabled by default.
That was not the intent of the original feature and it wasn't the intent of the draft standard either. Mozilla highlighted the problem in a blog post, underlining the fact that choosing for your users, one way or the other, is not giving them more control, as Microsoft claimed.
Unsurprisingly, the W3C updated the draft document to underline the fact that explicit consent is required, i.e. the user has to manually select to either allow tracking or not allow it. If the user hasn't chosen yet, the browser is to send no Do Not Track info in the header.
Microsoft correctly notes that, since this is just a draft spec, it can't force anyone to do anything so its plans to have the option enabled by default in IE10 stand. What's more, it hopes that it can sway the people involved and eliminate the explicit consent requirement.