Facebook will not honour the “do not track” signal being sent by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser when it rolls out a new ad system across the web, according to Ad Age:
A Facebook spokesman said that’s “because currently there is no industry consensus.” Social-media competitors Twitter and Pinterest do honour the setting. Google and Yahoo do not.
That move is yet another humiliation for Microsoft’s troubled Explorer browser. Just a few years ago, Explorer was used by as many as 90% of people looking at the web. Now only 31% of people use it.
Facebook controls a huge portion of online ad dollars. Its decision to shrug at the wishes of Microsoft is an indication of the fact that Facebook doesn’t feel that it needs to care what Microsoft thinks. It will not be lost on Microsoft staff that it was Facebook that acquired the Microsoft Atlas ad server for about $US50 million last year, shortly after Microsoft took a $US6.2 billion writedown on its related ad business, Acquantive.
Microsoft had rolled a out a new version, Internet Explorer 10, that it hoped would be attractive because it had an enhanced privacy feature for people who do not want to be tracked by advertisers as they browse the internet: It gave off a “do not track” signal to web advertisers by default. Users had the option to switch it off.
But the signal did not actually block the tracking cookies that advertisers use; it simply asked advertisers not to use those cookies to show ads the Explorer users. The ad industry balked at that. Then Mozilla, the company that makes Firefox, went a step further. It said future versions of its browsers would come with cookies blocked automatically by default. Users would have the option of turning them on.
Since then, Facebook has been rolling out a vast tracking alternative to cookies. The new system revolves around Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel, which can track users as they go anywhere on the web, not just Facebook.
Ad Age explains:
For now, it will capture websites that use Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel — which advertisers affix to see if their Facebook ads are yielding sales and traffic — as well as mobile apps that use Facebook’s software development kit to deploy Facebook services, like the log-in. Websites and apps that have Facebook’s tracking software encoded to retarget their visitors are also in the mix. Impressions tracked via the “like” button encoded in mobile apps — which Facebook recently introduced at its f8 conference for developers — will also be included.
(Facebook is not currently letting advertisers track you via “like” button hits on desktop sites, but that will happen later.)
Facebook users will get a new set of privacy and tracking controls that will let them see how they are being tracked, and let them alter or stop that tracking if they want, the New York Times notes:
You will also be able to click through to your full marketing dossier, or what Facebook calls your ad preferences, and see all of the attributes that Facebook believes describe you, such as “likes video games” or “interested in beach vacations.”
The Times also notes one aspect of Facebook’s new system that hands more power to Apple and Google, which have both developed alternatives to the web-based cookie that Explorer and Firefox are dependent on: “Facebook will honour the settings to limit ad tracking on iOS and Android devices, however,” The Times says.
iPhones, iPads and Android phones all assign a unique identifier to their users so that advertisers can track users as they browse the web on their phones or use apps. Because Facebook’s new system is compatible with that, it bolsters that Facebook-Apple-Google ad ecosystem and degrades the cookie-based system that everyone else uses.
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