Microsoft's Controversial Online Privacy Decision

Oct 15, 2012 15:43:28Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Microsoft's Controversial Online Privacy Decision

Have you ever wondered why, when browsing certain websites like Facebook, you'll notice that advertisements seem to be targeted specifically toward you? It's because many sites have policies that track information about users to provide them with ads that are tailored specifically to their individual surfing and browsing preferences. For instance, if you often visit websites that sell trendy shoes, you'll probably end up seeing more advertisements for footwear retailers. Some users enjoy this practice, as it makes online ads more relevant, but others feel it's an invasion of their internet privacy.

Online advertisers and various websites and technology companies addressed this issue by offering users the ability to "opt out" of online tracking as part of what is known as Do Not Track (DNT) policies. The ability to opt out helped many individuals feel as though their mobile identity was safe and secure.

Microsoft recently took the DNT trend one step further when it rolled out the newest version of its Internet Explorer browser, reports Information Week. Instead of offering users the ability to opt out of online tracking, it made DNT the default, so that web surfers could "opt in" if they wanted to see targeted advertising. Not surprisingly, this caught the attention of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which subsequently launched a protest campaign decrying Microsoft's move.

"Microsoft's decision undercuts the effectiveness of our brand owners' internet advertising and undermines the industry's self-regulatory system," wrote ANA president and CEO Bob Liodice in a statement, according to the news source.

This isn't the only example of online advertisers trying to skirt restrictions on the ways they can reach online users. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, during a recent meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium, representatives from the Digital Advertising Alliance and Association of National Advertisers pushed for exemption from all rules surrounding online marketing.

Whether or not you agree with targeted advertising, knowing how to control your internet privacy settings on your computer and mobile devices is essential.

Keep in mind that you'll likely need to review your privacy options for every internet browser you use, as well as any websites for which you use login credentials. Each site is different, so if you're unsure, try and contact the support staff that manages the site or browser. Additionally, be wary of any websites that ask you to share personal information such as a bank account number, passwords for other sites or services, or your home address and phone number.