European Commission position on Do Not Track

By EDRi · July 4, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Do Not Track: Standpunkt der Europäischen Kommission |]

The European Commission also got engaged in the discussions on the Do
Not Track (DNT) at the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) by sending a
letter asking W3C to require browser makers to give DNT options to users
when they first install or run a browser, and allow them to change the

DNT is a standard mechanism that would signal whether a user
wants online advertisers and websites to track his/her online
activities. “The standard should foresee that at the install or first
use of the browser the owner should be informed of the importance of
their DNT choice, told of the default setting and prompted or allowed to
change that setting,” says in the letter Robert Madelin, head of the
European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate-General.

Microsoft announced on 31 May 2012 that Internet Explorer 10 (IE10)
would have DNT on, by default. However, W3C’s position is
opposite to that of Microsoft. In a draft of the standard published
after Microsoft’s announcement, W3C stated that users should be able to
express their preference, and that a browser producer could not do that
for them – an idea backed-up by Firefox.

The Commission does not seem to be bothered by the DNT on-by-default.
“It is not the Commission’s understanding that user agents’ factory or
default setting necessarily determine or distort owner choice,” said
Madelin. Privacy advocates also tend to agree with DNT by default
which, in their opinion, should not be imposed by the editor on the
user, but rather let at the user’s choice. The EC is mainly
interested in the education of the users considering that the issue of
DNT by default or not is not the main issue but that of providing clear
information on DNT.

Last week, DNT was also on the public debate in USA, where the US Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing
entitled “The Need for Privacy Protections: Is Self-Regulation Adequate?”.

Everybody seems to agree on one thing – DNT is necessary and has to be
implemented as soon as possible.

Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) – W3C Working Draft (13.03.2012)

Letter of European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate-
General to the Worldwide Web Consortium Tracking Protection Working
Group (21.06.2012)

Do Not Track: the European Commission rather in line with Microsoft
(only in French, 25.06.2012)

Europe officials want all browsers to prompt users to set their privacy
choice (25.06.2012)

Do Not Track: the adjustment by default is not at stake for Brussels
(only in French, 26.06.2012)

À lire sur Numerama : Do Not Track : le réglage par défaut n’est pas l’enjeu pour Bruxelles

Report from the US meeting at the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation (29.06.2012)