One of the new features that Microsoft introduced in their Internet Explorer 9 browser was support for so called Tracking Protection Lists. These lists can be installed in the browser to add protection against tracking, and as a side effect many forms of advertisement. A list of common TPLs is available at the Internet Explorer Test Drive website where they can be installed with just two clicks of the mouse.
The initial batch of Tracking Protection Lists have received public criticism as they did not necessarily had the best user intent in mind. Analysis of the available lists revealed for instance that one did not block a single domain name, but made sure that almost 4000 different domains were allowed.
Internet Explorer users who installed that particular TPL in their browser were not able to benefit from the new technology at all.
Microsoft yesterday revealed that a privacy initiative will release three new tracking lists in the coming days.
This week two leading privacy advocates – Simon Davies and Alexander Hanff of Privacy International – are releasing three new Tracking Protection Lists for Europe, including one focused on protecting children.
The lists will be made available on the Privacy Online from where they can then be installed directly into the Internet Explorer browser.
It is not clear when those lists become available. Users who are interested in installing those lists should first analyze them to make sure they are indeed benefiting from them.
The initiative in addition plans to release the Custom TPL Engine tool that allows users to create their own Tracking Protection Lists for use in Internet Explorer.
We have developed three different tracking protection lists covering three segments which through comprehensive research, have been highlighted as significant concerns. These include Child Protection, Analytics and general Behavioural Profiling, but our tools also allow you to build a custom list depending on your own requirements. For example, you may be happy to have companies use third party tools (like Google Analytics) to generate data on how their web site is used, but might not want advertising companies to track you across multiple web sites to build a behavioural profile. Similarly, you might be happy to allow companies to track you but might want more protection for your children. Or you may be happy for certain companies that you trust, to track your activities but not companies you have not developed a trust relationship with or companies where you do not receive direct value from such tracking.
Please note that Privacy Online is a project of the London School of Economics that is funded with a research grant from Microsoft.
Update: Microsoft has shut down the Privacy Online website and instead made available the tracking protection lists on its Internet Explorer Test Drive website.
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