Consumer Privacy made it in the news big time recently in the United States with the FTC's (Federal Trade Commission) report on online consumer privacy. Microsoft, secretly until now, has been working on a feature called Tracking Protection for some time that they plan to ship with the release candidate and final version of the Internet browser Internet Explorer 9. What are the main features of tracking protection according to Microsoft?
- IE9 will offer consumers a new opt-in mechanism (“Tracking Protection”) to identify and block many forms of undesired tracking.
- “Tracking Protection Lists” will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they’re online.
According to this information, Tracking Protection allows IE9 users to manage some forms of tracking on the Internet. Tracking Protection allows them to maintain a list of domains and sites that may track them while they are online, while the remaining sites are blocked from doing so.
The feature is designed as a opt-in which means that users have to activate it to use it. This could mean that the majority of Internet Explorer users will be unaware of that option.
The video suggests that users need to select tracking scripts or images on a website to block them with Tracking Protection in Internet Explorer 9. The good news is that these blocked contents stay blocked over sessions and on other domains as well. Information are added to a so called Tracking Protection List which "contains web addresses (like msdn.com) that the browser will visit (or “call”) only if the consumer visits them directly by clicking on a link or typing their address". This means that connections to resources in the list are blocked if they are made from other web pages which is usually the case for third party cookies for instance.
It seems as if lists could be offered by websites, and that IE9 will update those lists once per week. I'm not entirely sure if this is a way for websites to offer their users a way to opt out of tracking mechanisms on their website, of if those lists can also be global lists to include hundreds or thousands of tracking mechanisms.
The IE blog offers a fairly large introduction of the Tracking Protection feature which interested users can access for additional information about the feature.
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