Microsoft today said users of Windows 8 will be able to change the default setting for the DNT (Do Not Track) privacy feature in Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) when they first run the new operating system.
DNT signals whether a user wants online advertisers and websites to track his or her movements. All five major browsers -- Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari -- can send a DNT signal.
In May, Microsoft announced that DNT would be switched on by default for IE10. That stance has not changed -- if users take no action, the feature will be enabled -- but today the company's chief privacy officer noted that customers can modify the setting if they want.
Setting choices after installation but before software runs is often described as a "first-run" option.
"DNT will be enabled in the 'Express Settings' portion of the Windows 8 set-up experience," Brendon Lynch, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, said in a Tuesday post to a company blog. "There, customers will also be given a 'Customize' option, allowing them to easily switch DNT off if they'd like."
Like earlier editions of the operating system, Windows 8 will offer users alternatives when they first run the software. The Express option accepts the defaults Microsoft has set, including DNT, and is assumed if the user does nothing but proceed with the setup. Customize lets users modify the default settings before running Windows 8 for the first time. "By using the Customize approach, users will be able to independently turn on and off a number of settings, including the setting for the DNT signal," Lynch promised.
When the user allows Express to complete the Windows 8 setup, they will see what Lynch called a "prominent notice" that tells them IE10 will have DNT switched on.
"Microsoft keeps Do Not Track by default in Win[dows] 8 and IE10, but makes it a first-run option. Hard to argue with that," said Jonathan Mayer in a Tuesday tweet.
Mayer, a researcher at Stanford's CIS (Center for Internet and Society), is one of two Stanford students who devised the HTTP header concept used by browsers to signal a user's DNT decision. He is also active in discussions by the W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium) standards-setting group to finalize DNT's implementation.
In the past, rivals have complained about how Microsoft structures its Express settings, and have claimed that few users select the Customize alternative.
Lynch said feedback drove Microsoft to spell out how IE10 will handle DNT.
"Since [May], we have conducted additional consumer research that confirmed strong support for our 'consumer-privacy-first' approach to DNT," claimed Lynch. "We have also discussed our point of view with many interested parties, who want to learn more about how our customers will first experience and control the DNT setting in IE."
It's clear there are "interested parties" in Microsoft's unilateral decision to turn on DNT.