ANA Board Opposes Microsoft’s Decision to Implement ‘Do-Not-Track’ Default Function for Internet Explorer 10 Browser
The Board of Directors for ANA (Association of National Advertisers) expressed profound disappointment with and strong opposition to Microsoft’s decision to implement ‘Do Not Track’ functionality in its Internet Explorer 10 browser by default. In a letter to Steve Ballmer, CEO; Bradford Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel; and Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer of Microsoft Corporation, ANA renewed their request that Microsoft reverse its position, which will harm consumers, hurt competition and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy.
Please read the full letter below.
October 1, 2012
Steve Ballmer, CEO
Bradford Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
Dear Steve, Brad, and Craig:
As ANA’s Board of Directors, we write to renew the request of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that Microsoft reverse its position regarding the so-called “do-not-track” default setting for the forthcoming Internet Explorer 10 browser. We believe that if Microsoft moves forward with this default setting, it will undercut the effectiveness of our members’ advertising and, as a result, drastically damage the online experience by reducing the Internet content and offerings that such advertising supports. This result will harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation and leadership in the Internet economy.
In May of this year, Microsoft announced that it was building “do not track” by default into its upcoming Internet browser. As we stated in previous correspondence, this action was shocking to ANA’s membership given Microsoft’s prominent role in the development of the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising developed by the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”), a process that was spearheaded by ANA and the other leading industry associations in the Internet and advertising arena. ANA along with our partner trade associations in the DAA are very troubled by Microsoft’s actions.
Since the initial letter, Microsoft’s announcement has been uniformly met with outrage, opposition, and declarations that Microsoft’s action is wrong. The entire media ecosystem has condemned this action. The Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, after an initially supportive response to Microsoft’s announcement, released a statement expressing his belief that the right standard is a default of “off” for “do-not-track,” recognizing the harm to consumers that Microsoft’s decision could create.
Apache, a provider of software that supports nearly two-thirds of Internet web site offerings, has designed its software to ignore the “do-not-track” setting if the browser reaching it is Internet Explorer 10, describing Microsoft’s actions as a “deliberate abuse of open standards” developed by a standard setting organization to recognize a default “off.” Even consumer advocacy groups oppose your decision. In the face of this opposition and the reality of the harm that your actions could create, it is time to realign with the broader business community by providing choice through a default of “off” on your browser’s “do not track” setting and removing the setting from Microsoft’s recommended “Express Install” installation process of the browser. It is not sufficient, nor is it in consumers’ interest, to require consumers to turn “off” a “do-not-track” setting through a “Customized” installation process.
Microsoft’s Unilateral Action Risks Undercutting the Existing Broad Array of Internet Content and Services
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Browser currently has a 43 percent market share in the United States. By setting the Internet Explorer browser to block data collection, Microsoft’s action could potentially eliminate the ability to collect web viewing data of up to 43 percent of the browsers used by Americans.
ANA’s Board of Directors is very concerned that Microsoft’s action threatens to take the information out of the information economy. The Internet is a tremendous engine of economic growth and a platform for enhancing our daily lives. It has become the focus and a symbol of the United States’ famed innovation, ingenuity, inventiveness, and entrepreneurial spirit. It is data that fuels this engine and supports the vast array of online offerings that define the consumer online experience. For instance, web viewing data is used to make users’ experience online more relevant via tailored content; leads to continued innovation, which has the potential to offer consumers untold benefits; and is used to support the offering of online products and services at low or no cost. Data also supports robust consumer protections including safety mechanisms that range from fraud detection in financial services to prevention of online threats.
By Presenting Do Not Track With a Default On, Microsoft Is Making the Wrong Choice For Consumers
In the public statements regarding Microsoft’s action, Microsoft representatives have expressed the view that by default consumers will not be tracked, using the moniker “do not track” to describe the setting. Default policy choices should be set by looking to what is best for society as a whole, while giving individuals who have strong preferences the ability to make a different choice. By making this selection for consumers and presenting it in the terms that Microsoft has used, you are presenting the wrong choice to consumers and making a choice for them in a way that is fundamentally bad for consumer interests and the Internet services that they cherish, and even worse concealing this trade-off from them.
ANA’s Board of Directors is very upset that the choice being made by Microsoft is one that will ultimately threaten to reduce the vast array of free content and services available to consumers. When presented as a default “on,” by design Microsoft is no longer creating a choice of whether or not data about consumers will be tracked. Rather, Microsoft appears determined to stop the collection of web viewing data. That is unacceptable. The result of such a large percentage of data collection being blocked seriously undermines consumers’ interests by potentially diminishing the robust content and services available over the Internet.
A simple example of advertising in the television medium makes this point clear. If consumers were presented a choice of whether they want advertisements on network television to be broadcast, consumers would likely choose “no advertising.” But if 43 percent of American households were removed from the television advertising audience, consumers collectively would suffer because network television as we know it would no longer be a viable business model. The choice would not be one of advertising or no advertising; the choice would be one of advertising or no network television shows. Similarly, the choice that consumers actually face is between continuing to allow advertising to subsidize Internet offerings, or paying more for offerings that they currently enjoy for free or at a low cost. Microsoft’s use of a default setting deprives consumers of the ability to make an informed and realistic choice about the value of advertising for the Internet ecosystem. Microsoft’s decision to block collection and use of information by default will significantly reduce the diversity of Internet offerings and potentially cheat society of the robust offerings that are currently available. ANA’s Board of Directors strongly opposes Microsoft’s position.
Microsoft’s Prompting of a Consumer At Installation Also Results in the Wrong Choice for Consumers
Microsoft’s subsequent announcement that it will provide consumers with the ability to change the setting to “off” at installation is also problematic. As explained above, it is clear that a default “off” setting for consumers to control online data collection strikes the right balance for society as a whole. If consumers were presented with the right choice of responsible collection and use of this data in exchange for today’s vast advantages of the Internet, there is no question what the right choice is. That is why policymakers including the Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the Secretary of Commerce and the President of the United States have publicly and repeatedly recognized the merits of the current system, which provides choice to consumers regarding data collection but not in a manner that will result in cannibalizing the Internet. Microsoft itself has been a leader in developing the responsible practices subscribed to by the ecosystem for more than a decade. It is time for Microsoft to do the right thing. ANA’s Board of Directors urges Microsoft to revert to this “opt out” model, which makes sense for companies, consumers, and the Internet economy alike.
ANA’s Board is prepared to engage in direct conversation with Microsoft. Representing thousands of brand owners that are responsibly pursuing productive pathways to consumer engagement, we believe in a far different course of action. We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10. We look forward to your response to our invitation.
The ANA Board of Directors
Mark W. Addicks
Mark W. Addicks
Mark R. Baynes
Lisa D. Cochrane
Deborah S. Conrad
Marie T. Devlin
William D. Fay
Neil B. Golden
Thomas F. Haas
Judy L. Hu
John Kennedy, Jr.
Robert D. Liodice
Charlotte O. McKines
Marc S. Pritchard
Stephen F. Quinn
Karen H. Quintos
Michael E. Sneed
James D. Speros
 Michael Learmonth, “Online Ad Industry Takes Aim at Microsoft in Congressional Hearing”, AdAge (June 28, 2012), available at http://adage.com/article/digital/daa-takes-aim-microsoft-congressional-hearing/235688/.
 Stephen Shankland, “Apache Web software overrides IE10 do-not-track setting”, CNET News (September 7, 2012) available at http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57508351-93/apache-web-software-overrides-ie10-do-not-track-setting/.