Microsoft's Internet Explorer Will Include New, Limited Feature to Protect against Tracking

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As concern increases about the privacy of computer users surfing the Web, the AP is reporting that tech giant Microsoft will have a feature in an upcoming version of Internet Explorer that will allow users to list and block sites they don't want to be tracked by.

The anti-tracking feature appears to be a scaled-down version of what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently recommending. Under the Microsoft version, users will either have to come up with or find a list of sites on their own – not rely on a common list, says a report from the AP.

Nor will the feature be turned automatically when Internet Explorer 9 is released in early 2011, the AP says.

Putting the responsibility, to list sites to block, on users, concerns some privacy advocates.

"Users aren't equipped to make these kinds of decisions, nor do they want to," Anup Ghosh, founder of Invincea, told the AP. "With this kind of 'do not track' list, the industry is not held accountable for not tracking. It's the user that's responsible. They kind of got it backward.”

Instead, Ghosh recommended that Microsoft and privacy advocacy groups collaborate to identify and list sites “that engage in controversial forms of tracking,” he told The AP.

Among the key issues with tracking is that it happens “silently,” says the AP. Users’ browsing trends are sold in the commercial sector, and later monitored by ad firms, which in turn, can target users specific ads based on their browsing history, says the AP.

Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch said the company does not want to say which sites are bad or which sites are good to track users. He says it is “up to the consumer," the AP said.

Jules Polonetsky, co-chairman and director of the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), said lists of sites will likely be created by consumer groups, trade groups, privacy watchdogs and government agencies, according to the AP. The lists will be added to a plug-in.

TechZone360 reports that many policymakers recently have indicated support for a “Do Not Track” mechanism, says the FPF.

Last month, the FTC endorsed implementing a “Do Not Track” mechanism so consumers can choose whether or not to allow the collection of data on their Web searches and browsing, according to TechZone360.

The mechanism would likely take the form of a persistent setting on users’ browsers, according to the FTC.


Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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