Apache Patch to Override IE 10’s Do Not Track Setting

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Microsoft has by default enabled DNT in Internet Explorer 10 and upcoming Windows 8 stating that it is to “better protect user privacy.” This hasn’t gone down well with Ad networks, users and other browser makers.

According to Mozilla, the DNT feature shouldn’t be either in an active state or an inactive state until and unless a user specifically sets it. Along the same lines is the stance adopted by Digital Advertising Alliance. The alliance has revealed that it will honor DNT if and only if it is not switched on by default. This means advertisers will be ignoring the DNT altogether no matter how a particular browser is set up.

DNT project has another member – Apache. It turns out that Microsoft’s stance is like a thorn to Apache as well. Fielding has written a patch for the web server titled “Apache does not tolerate deliberate abuse of open standards.”

The patch immediately sparked a debate which instigated Fielding to elaborate on his work: “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.”

According to Fielding, “Microsoft deliberately violates the 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 users want one” he added.

The debate is not one-sided and there are people who are with Microsoft on this. One of the users said, “IE10 is respecting the DNT standards. The specification says that the user should select the option, which the user [can] do during the Windows 8 setup.”

So what does the actual DNT standard read? When it comes to determining a user’s DNT preference, it reads as follows: “A user agent must have a default tracking preference of ‘unset’ (not enabled) unless a specific tracking preference is implied by the decision to use that agent.” Here the user agent needs to be interpreted as a Web browser.

Interpretation of the standard is yet another thing. Advertisers are of the opinion that if a person hasn’t explicitly enabled Do Not Track, the idea that it’s being enabled means anything.

Mike Zaneis, Internet Advertising Bureau’s general counsel is of the opinion, “If the site does not believe the DNT:1 signal is valid, then why would anyone in the supply chain be expected to honor the invalid signal?”

Ravi is the founder of Parity Media and currently acting as an editor of ParityNews.com. He is a technology enthusiast with keen interest in information security. Ravi has over 6 years of experience and is keen on raising general awareness about technology in society.