“Do Not Track” Privacy Setting in Microsoft Edge

By Woody Leonhard

The privacy setting known as “Do Not Track” has a long and torturous history. In 2009, a group of Internet privacy advocates created the “Do Not Track” specification as a way for you, the user, to tell the websites you’re browsing that you do not want them to keep track of your visit — no cookies, they won’t store your IP address, no monkey business with sending your information to advertisers.

All six of the major Windows browsers — IE, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and now Edge — can tell sites that you don’t want to be tracked.

In mid-2012, as part of the IE 10 push, Microsoft decided that DNT would be enabled by default: Unless you took action to disable it, IE would send the DNT signal to every site you visit. The web standards world, particularly those representing advertisers, erupted. An online advertising advocacy group said DNT would “harm consumers, hurt competition, and undermine American innovation.” Go figure.

Ends up that the original sorta-agreed-upon standard said that browsers were only supposed to fly the DNT flag if the user specifically chose it.

Microsoft didn’t back off until early 2015, when it announced that IE would not send DNT unless the user had explicitly asked for it. That decision has carried forward to Edge; you won’t have the Send Do Not Track requests setting On unless you specifically slide it to On.

It doesn’t make much difference anyway. Conformance to the DNT spec was (and is) completely voluntary. About ten websites decided to obey the DNT. (Okay, that’s exaggerating, but aside from Twitter and Pinterest, there have been very few.) The others bowed to pressure from their advertisers and kept doing what they’ve always been doing.

Will DNT ever take hold and become a de facto Internet standard? Why, yes, it’ll happen just about the time advertisers stop advertising on the web. Give it, oh, a hundred years.