Microsoft has announced that the latest version of Internet Explorer will offer users a new anti-tracking privacy feature. This will help prevent marketing and advertising companies from watching where you surf and what you do online without your consent. Users will be able to set their preferences to prohibit companies from obtaining sensitive tracking information. This is a first step in the right direction – browsers should step up as the first line of defense against unwanted information collection.
This comes at a time where advertisers want to reintroduce the use of deep packet inspection in order to more closely watch and market to consumers online. This method reads and analyzes raw packets of your personal data as they travel across the Internet – for obvious reasons deep packet inspection has been the subject of much controversy. Internet users are becoming more aware that what they do online is not private and are beginning to ask for tools to protect their browsers from spying.
Internet Explorer already offers InPrivate Filtering, a feature that works on blocking third-party scripting and tracking devices. This is only a temporary solution that is not very reliable because it often fails to block many tracking devices.
The new changes are no surprise, due to increased concerns on browser tracking. Both consumers and the government have been working to allow a more “opt-in and opt-out” friendly version of internet browsing. The FTC called for a “do not track” button on browsers in order to block any kind of third-party usage tracking.
Tracking Protection Lists would potentially be a finer-grained equivalent, allowing users to opt out of some or all tracking systems depending on their preferences. Tracking Protection Lists will be an opt-in-feature and Internet Explorer 9 will not provide any lists themselves. The lists will update weekly and most likely come from third parties and privacy advocacy groups.The lists will be useful to prevent the kind of spying that is getting many companies into trouble.
Support for Tracking Protection Lists will first arrive in a release candidate of Internet Explorer 9. Redmond did not give a date for this, but it is likely to be early next year.