Most folks would likely agree that companies' abilities to track every move you make online, then custom build an advertising strategy designed to flood your cerebral cortex with uncontrollable desires to buy stuff is a bad thing. It took a while to convince Microsoft of this, but it appears they've warmed up to the anti-tracking idea with their upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser. Advertisers, on the other hand, are not "most folks" and they think that without Big Brother status, people will have to decide what to buy with only the help of the countless other ads that don't spy on their every move.
The Wall Street Journal has the story today. In it, Microsoft says they'll rehash anti-tracking technology that was dropped from Explorer 8 after the same advertisers who are upset now cried enough to get their way.
The new software, however, is slightly different from the last, which would have automatically blocked certain tracking attempts. Windows 9 will give users the option to subscribe to "tracking protection lists," which are basically lists of websites that allow companies to track your online habits. Subscribe to the "do not track" list for that website and bam--the trackers can no longer access your computer.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz applauded the move, as did seemingly everyone else who values online privacy, telling the Journal:
"This announcement proves that technology is available to let consumers control tracking. Now others in both the browser and advertising communities need to step up and develop technologies including implementing a Do-Not-Track option."
The online advertising community, on the other hand, is falling all over itself to condemn the software. Randall Rothenberg, chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau says:
"We are concerned that the new browser features will block the advertising that supports free content on the Internet, and may inadvertently block news, entertainment and social media content as well."
That's forgetting the fact that free content, news, entertainment and social media were doing just fine online, long before software was developed that let advertisers track everything that people click, buy and look at.