Microsoft on Thursday announced another test version of its Windows 8 operating system with an Internet browser that has “do not track” technology as the default.
That means that when browsing on PCs and mobile devices featuring Windows 8, a user won’t automatically be tracked on the Web.
The Redmond, Wa.-based company said it is the first company to offer the default service. Other browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome offer the privacy feature, but users have to expressly request it.
“We believe that consumers should have more control over how information about their online behavior is tracked, shared and used,” Microsoft's chief privacy officer, Brendon Lynch, wrote in a blog post.
That could be at the expense of some targeted advertising, the company admits. But users who want tailored ads served to them should be able to volunteer to receive that marketing by choice, the Lynch said.
“Of course, we hope that many consumers will see this value and make a conscious choice to share information in order to receive more personalized ad content. For us, that is the key distinction. Consumers should be empowered to make an informed choice,” he wrote.
Microsoft’s announcement drew praise from U.S. government officials, who said the company was setting a strong example for the industry.
“Microsoft’s Do Not Track option in its upcoming version of Internet Explorer is yet another step forward in giving consumers choice about their browsing data,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “Despite this positive development, industry should honor consumer choice not just for receiving targeted ads, but for all tracking other than for expected purposes like security. I remain hopeful that industry will provide an effective Do Not Track solution by the end of the year.”
The Windows 8 upgrade offer comes ahead of the general availability of the new operating system later this year.
The Obama administration has urged companies to step up voluntary efforts to protect consumer privacy online. The FTC has also urged legislation that would guide companies on how they can collect information for behavioral advertising and inform users of that collection.
updated version at 8:34 p.m. with FTC, Microsoft comments