The release of Windows 8 has come and gone, and that means millions of users around the world are now using Internet Explorer 10. Although Internet Explorer 10 might look like just another web browser, it has one feature that makes it unique from any other web browser ever made.
That feature is Do Not Track protection, which Internet Explorer 10 has enabled by default. Although other browsers have Do Not Track, they force users to enable it manually. Since Internet Explorer is used by over 50% of computer users, enabling Do Not Track by default is a big deal for all internet users.
But what does Do Not Track actually mean? Today, we’re going to answer that question.
What is Do Not Track?
Do Not track is a privacy standard that allows users to say when they want to be tracked online and when they do not. Tracking, in this case, refers to the installation of cookies on a user’s computer. These cookies are used to track online sales between websites and play a huge role in the internet marketing community as well as some of the company’s largest retailers – like Amazon.com.
Unfortunately, the Do Not Track regulation is an honor system. Websites have no legal obligation to obey DNT, and many choose not to.
One of the advantages of Do Not Track (over simply disabling cookies) is that login information, shopping carts, and other harmless information is tracked. So, if you’re worried about having to type in login information every time you visit Facebook, Do Not Track doesn’t force you to do that. This is a good thing for the average internet user.
You already have Do Not Track on Chrome and Firefox
Firefox and Chrome users don’t have to get jealous of Internet Explorer 10 just yet. In fact, Chrome and Firefox already have Do Not Track – it’s just not enabled by default. Chrome’s Do Not Track setting can be found under the Settings menu (click on the three straight lights in the top left corner of your Chrome browser).
Of course, if you don’t want websites to leave any trace of their existence on your PC (including history), then you can open up an Incognito window by hitting Ctrl+Shift+N.
Firefox’s Do Not Track, meanwhile, is found by heading to the Options menu, then by navigating to the Privacy panel. Simply check the box beside Tell websites I do not want to be tracked, apply the changes, and tracking cookies will not be installed on your system.
Why it might not matter
Ultimately, having Do Not Track enabled by default might not matter to internet users because it depends entirely on the honesty of web developers. The theory behind the Do Not Track system is that webmasters will install a script that recognizes whether Do Not Track is enabled or disabled. If Do Not Track is enabled, then advertisers are not ‘supposed’ to track users across websites.
But the advertising industry doesn’t like being told what it can and cannot do. As a result, many online advertisers are deciding to ignore Do Not Track and continue installing cookies on users’ computers. Since enforcement is non-existent (it’s an honor system), they’re getting away with it.
And it’s not just sleazy advertisers who are ignoring the DNT standard. Instead, it’s major companies like Apache, Adobe, and Yahoo, all of which have released patches overriding Internet Explorer 10’s Do Not Track command.
So despite Microsoft’s push for “greater security” for users, all the controversy surrounding Internet Explorer 10’s Do Not Track policy might ultimately not matter. In that sense, it’s kind of like the Do Not Call list – although less strictly enforced.
Right now, having Do Not Track enabled doesn’t make a huge difference to internet users. But in the future, as enforcement increases and advertisers start being punished, that could certainly change.