Microsoft and Do Not Track: Internet Explorer’s new privacy push

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ie9Microsoft announced it will ship IE9 with new ways that users can opt-in for tracking protection.  Is privacy going mainstream?

Microsoft’s new IE browser now plans to come out of the box with the ability to block different lists of advertisers and other companies that insert hidden tracking technologies (using all sorts of methods) into the web pages you visit from your computer.   These technologies interact with your browser to build up detailed profiles of what “you,” the user, is doing all over the web, every day.

As these technologies have evolved, various pro-consumer factions have had to maintain growing lists (view a technical example) of specific sites or technologies that get inserted into sites, that are deemed to invade privacy, serve unwanted ads, or act even more maliciously.

The concept of such lists should be familiar to regular users who have Anti-Virus software installed on their machines.  Companies like Norton, Symantec, Intel/Macafee, and AVG have to constantly keep lists of new viruses, then push them out as updates to us to put on our machines in order to stay safe.

Structurally, lists of privacy tracking technologies are no different than viruses: big lists of items that the browser (in this case, Internet Explorer 9) can learn to avoid loading or taking requests from.

Since Microsoft, like Google, also happens to be a big online advertising company, this is a pretty bold move.

As Chris Soghoian, the original creator of TACO points out in his blog, it will be interesting to see what the response is from Mozilla and from Google (the biggest online advertiser).

Whats the big picture?  This won’t be enough to give a regular user what they think of as online privacy.

Technology moves fast and one really can’t focus on a single thing like Do Not Track lists because companies will use new ways and other online identifier like and IP address, Facebook ID, or your private email to monitor you.  To have the kind of privacy web users enjoyed by default 5 years ago, the average person needs to have software that selectively controls the secret harvesting of all of these kinds of identifiers (and more).

This is precisely why Abine’s Privacy Suite was created – because most of us don’t have time to do the multiple things required for basic privacy and then keep them up to date.  It’s free and can be downloaded here.

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