Google’s updated Chrome browser finally adds support for the “do not track” (DNT) standard. This was previously reported and confirmed by Google but is now rolling out. All other major browsers support DNT.
The Internet Explorer browser is set to DNT by default. The other browsers require consumers to affirmatively indicate DNT as a preference. Microsoft’s position in particular has angered ad-industry trade groups (and irked its partner Yahoo).
The Digital Advertising Alliance, a kind of meta trade group comprised of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the IAB, the DMA, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Advertising Federation, has even gone so far as to say that it simply wouldn’t honor the IE browser’s DNT settings.
DNT does not actually block tracking cookies. Rather it communicates the consumer’s desire not to be tracked (or targeted) by the particular website, ad network or publisher. The entity receiving the DNT request must then honor the request, but the scheme is entirely voluntary now and their are no penalties for defying it.
According to survey data consumers are opposed to having websites collect their data for tracking/targeting purposes. However most consumers are ignorant about DNT or the battle raging among interested parties over the standard.
The Obama Administration has indicated that it wants online ad industry players to come up with voluntary frameworks to offer better consumer privacy protections. A Romney victory last night would have meant more lax treatment of online advertising and a mostly “hands-off” approach. Now we should expect to see consumer privacy continue as an issue with ongoing pressure from the Administration and the FTC to comply with DNT.