How Internet Explorer 10’s “Do Not Track” Option Affects Your Marketing


Since this is a small-business blog and not a tech blog, you might have missed the whole "do not track" Internet Explorer 10 brouhaha that's been going on this month. Basically, it's a feature that -- as Wired, who perhaps is best qualified to explain it -- "doesn't attempt to block cookies — instead it is a browser setting that sends a message to every website you visit saying you prefer not to be tracked."

Not a big deal, right? Well, actually, it caused quite a dust-up because it was interpreted as an attempt by Microsoft, who makes IE, to prevent its users from transmitting their information via tracking cookies. Not only was it interpreted as an attempt to weaken Google's empire, but it was hailed as a consumer-conscious feature to help protect their privacy. But also, with 24 hours it was reported that the feature would be on by default, but then also that it wasn't.

Depending on which end of the advertisement you're on, the movement to stop corporate advertisers from tracking the behavior of computer users is either a boon or a bane. Whether it's switched on by default or not, though, users can still elect to turn it on. Which means, if you're an entrepreneur or run your own business, it's going to be tougher to reach and track people.

"People who know the possible threats manage it on their own," said Bob Peck, senior front-end developer at Omnicom. "This utility is good because it protects the non-savvy users while putting marketing and statistics at risk."

So how do you manage that risk if you're an entrepreneur?

"This should have absolutely no bearing on any small business unless they are collecting data without someone's permission," said Elizabeth Coker, in charge of marketing, sales and business ops for 3P Mobile. "Just because there is a setting in the browser… does not mean the server has to do anything with the information… [but] 'do not track' really means 'do not share' with ad engines and behavioral targeting folks."

That's fine. But let's say you still want to get through to those people with your Internet marketing. What should you do? "Overall, I believe IE's feature will have an impact in online display advertising," said Mike Sprouse, president and CEO of Chicago-based Sprouse Marketing Group. "Startups shouldn't even be fishing in that pond initially… focus elsewhere in marketing, I say… it's unlikely they would or should be pouring money into these types of [online display] advertising campaigns."

Consultant Ben Piper added that "although startups don't need to worry about 'do not track' at this point, they need to be aware of how future legislation of DNT could impact their marketing efforts."

So, just because it doesn't affect you yet doesn't mean it can't ever. To start getting up on it more, I'd suggest checking out this article over on ZD Net about some of the cracks in the debate about all this.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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