Apr 3, 2015 · 1 minute

Microsoft has announced that its Internet Explorer web browsers will no longer have the Do Not Track setting enabled by default. This seems like a major blow to online privacy, but it probably won't have much of an effect on most people who browse the Web.

In its announcement, Microsoft argues that turning off Do Not Track in its browsers by default might even be good for consumers. It explains:

Put simply, we are updating our approach to DNT to eliminate any misunderstanding about whether our chosen implementation will comply with the W3C standard. Without this change, websites that receive a DNT signal from the new browsers could argue that it doesn’t reflect the users’ preference, and therefore, choose not to honor it.
Besides, it's not as if Do Not Track really prevents companies from monitoring consumers in order to better serve up relevant ads. It's more of a digital placebo that merely makes consumers feel better.

Forbes reported in 2013 that Google and Facebook don't honor Do Not Track because it "isn’t clear that consumers know what 'do not track' means." Yahoo doesn't (really) honor the setting either. As the company explained in a blog post:

Here at Yahoo, we work hard to provide our users with a highly personalized experience. We keep people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the world. We fundamentally believe the best web is a personalized one.

As of today, web browser Do Not Track settings will no longer be enabled on Yahoo. As the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track, we’ve been at the heart of conversations surrounding how to develop the most user-friendly standard. However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry. Web companies aren't the only groups ignoring Do Not Track. Internet service providers like AT&T have decided to monitor consumers' Web activities regardless of their browser settings. So what's the point of supporting the standard?

Microsoft isn't abandoning consumer privacy. It's attempting to make it so that people who actively enable Do Not Track might stand a chance of not being, you know, tracked.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]