Microsoft’s decision to make Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 have the “Do Not Track” (DNT) option turned on by default has stirred a heated discussion among browser developers, online analytics companies, privacy advocates, advertisers, and the Tracking Protection Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The latest oil to that particular fire has been added by the Apache Foundation, which added a patch to its open source Apache HTTP Server that will make it ignore the DNT header if sent by the IE10 browser.
Apache HTTP Server is the world’s most popular web server, and the patch – named “Apache does not tolerate deliberate abuse of open standards” by its creator Roy Fielding – will effectively ignore the header even if the actual choice was made by a human.
“The only reason DNT exists is to express a non-default option. That’s all it does. It does not protect anyone’s privacy unless the recipients believe it was set by a real human being, with a real preference for privacy over personalization,” explained Fielding, who is one of the founders of the Apache HTTP Server Project but also a scientist at Adobe and one of the editors of the DNT standard.
“The decision to set DNT by default in IE10 has nothing to do with the user’s privacy. Microsoft knows full well that the false signal will be ignored, and thus prevent their own users from having an effective option for DNT even if their user’s want one. You can figure out why they want that. If you have a problem with it, choose a better browser,” he concluded.
To be fair, Microsoft’s decision does clash with the concept behind the DNT option, which should be a user preference and choice, and not imposed in any way to them. Still, this patch will be doing the same for any IE10 user, and that’s again agains the standard.
Whichever opinion we currently have about the matter, the fact still remains that the DNT standard has yet to be agreed upon by Internet players, and if this continues, it is unlikely to.
Opinions on whether such final resolution is good or bad also differ. After all, the standard will not compel sites to comply with the user’s do not track request or sanction them if their ignore it, so many rightfully ask what good would it do after all.