MS tacks Mozilla 'Do Not Track' header onto W3C submission

Before you can say 'embrace and extend' ...


In a move that melds sneaky with shrewd, Microsoft has added Mozilla's Do Not Track browser header to the submission of its Tracking Protection proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This potentially leaves Google – the third of the three contenders for privacy-enhanced browsing – isolated in a self-regulatory alliance with a gaggle of US ad networks, while Microsoft sidles closer to the kind of solution the regulators are likely to go for.

Both the US FTC and the European Union are currently concerned about Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) in particular, and the tracking of individuals across the internet in general. Mozilla unveiled its proposal, a Do Not Track browser header that expressed an individual's desire not to be tracked, in late January, practically simultaneous with Google's release of its own Keep My Opt-Outs. Microsoft added its Tracking Protection to IE9 late last year.

Although Mozilla's Do Not Track requires that websites and servers actually pay attention to the user's wishes as expressed via the browser, it has the virtue of being a universal approach to the issue, and it also conforms more closely to the wishes of the regulators. An FTC report last year recommended a Do Not Track browser setting so that "consumers would not have to exercise choices on a company-by-company or industry-by-industry basis, and that such choices would be persistent," while the EU's E-Privacy Directive requires that users be given an "informed choice" prior to having cookies placed on their machines. Neither body is happy about the largely unintelligible nature of current browser privacy settings.

Google's Keep My Opt-Outs and Microsoft's Tracking Protection have more immediate effect than Do Not Track, but they're limited, and really don't look like they'll cut the mustard with the regulators. Google has chosen to work with the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising, which you could view as the US ad industry's attempt to fend off legislation, and at the moment its system – a browser plug-in – is restricted to Chrome, and only allows you to opt out of OBA by about 60 US networks. And it is perhaps worth pointing out at this juncture that the ad industry does not necessarily view OBA and tracking as the same thing (see the FTC report linked to above).

Microsoft's Tracking Protection, on the other hand, relies on third-party white lists and block lists of "companies that offer poor privacy protection". It is not switched on by default, and it does potentially give you a great measure of control of what you wish to block or allow, as there's nothing stopping you building your own lists. Most people using it, however, will do so via third parties (eg TrustE), and most people probably won't switch it on in the first place.

But put that together with Do Not Track, and you have a potential winner – albeit still a fairly rudimentary one that will require at least the threat of a regulatory stick in order to be effective (although you could interpret the E-Privacy Directive as meaning it already has regulatory force in Europe).

Mozilla itself meanwhile feels that Do Not Track is the beginning of the discussion, not the end. "I think that all of the Do Not Track discussion is in its very early stages," Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker told The Register earlier this year. "Hopefully, the current proposals will ultimately look very crude." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading
  • Perl Steering Council lays out a backwards compatible future for Perl 7
    Sensibly written code only, please. Plus: what all those 'heated discussions' were about

    The much-anticipated Perl 7 continues to twinkle in the distance although the final release of 5.36.0 is "just around the corner", according to the Perl Steering Council.

    Well into its fourth decade, the fortunes of Perl have ebbed and flowed over the years. Things came to a head last year, with the departure of former "pumpking" Sawyer X, following what he described as community "hostility."

    Part of the issue stemmed from the planned version 7 release, a key element of which, according to a post by the steering council "was to significantly reduce the boilerplate needed at the top of your code, by enabling a lot of widely used modules / pragmas."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022