Microsoft unveils new Edge Privacy Tools concept

Martin Brinkmann
May 6, 2019
Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge

Microsoft unveiled a new privacy tools concept for the company's upcoming Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser on the first day of the 2019 Microsoft Build conference.

Microsoft's concept introduces a privacy dashboard in the web browser that aims to make things easier to understand for users.

The current version displays three privacy levels to users -- unrestricted, balanced, and strict -- which users may activate with a single click.

The concept may sound familiar to Firefox users as Mozilla's web browser uses privacy presets as well. Mozilla started to push Tracking Protection in Firefox in 2017 and improved the feature recently with new options.

Firefox users may select standard, strict and custom to block trackers and cookies (or allow them).

microsoft-edge privacy tools concept

From what has been revealed by Microsoft, Microsoft's privacy dashboard comes without custom option. It is certainly possible that such an option exists as Microsoft did not reveal what else is listed on the browser's privacy and security configuration page.

All three presets block malicious trackers but the similarities end there.

  • Unrestricted: allow all trackers (but malicious ones), you will see personalized ads, sites will function correctly.
  • Balanced: blocks trackers from unvisited sites, you will see ads based on other visited sites, sites will function correctly.
  • Strict: blocks potential trackers, you will see minimal ads, will break some sites.

Users may select any of the presets in the Edge Settings under Privacy & Security. It is likely that Balanced is selected by default but that has not been confirmed.

Microsoft added Tracking Prevention information to the icon menu of sites as well. Just click on the site icon next to a site's URL to display tracking information and options.

microsoft edge tracking prevention

Microsoft Edge displays the number of allowed and blocked trackers on the page, and the current privacy level. A menu is provided to change the privacy level right then and there.

Closing Words

Tracking blocking is not full ad-blocking but it certainly is a step in the right direction. When Edge was launched, I asked myself why Microsoft would not integrate full ad-blocking in the browser to beat Chrome and hurt Google at the same time.

Google did add an ad-blocker to Chrome but the native blocker only becomes active if a site goes overboard with advertisement that Google does not find acceptable.

While Microsoft has an advertising division as well, it is not nearly as dependent on advertising revenue as Google is. Tracker blocking improves the loading time of webpages significantly on average.

I'd like a custom option that gives me full control over the blocking, similar to the one that is in Firefox.

Now You: What is your take on this development?

Microsoft unveils new Edge Privacy Tools concept
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Microsoft unveils new Edge Privacy Tools concept
Microsoft unveiled a new privacy tools concept for the company's upcoming Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser today.
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  1. AnorKnee Merce said on May 7, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Remember, it was US tech companies that pioneered the mass consumer computer industry and Internet mass communications during the 1980s and 1990s. So, the US government naturally gave the US tech companies nearly free rein to do as they please = protectionism = more profit$ and jobs for the US economy.

    Hence, unrestricted by any US govt regulations, Google Inc was able to pioneer the tracking of Internet web-surfers in exchange for free use of Google software and services(eg Google Search) by them, in order for Google to dish out more effective targeted ads to them = companies that sold stuffs began flocking to Google to buy digital ads. Later, Google realized she could also make profit$ by collecting and selling aggregated user-data to marketers and researchers.
    ……. This was how the total invasion of the privacy of Internet-users began.

    In comparison, there was no invasion of user-privacy in traditional ads found in print media(newspapers/magazines) and TV/radio broadcasts, ie no tracking.

    Seems, M$ has also gotten US government protection by integrating forced Telemetry & Data collection or spyware into Win 10 and backporting the same into Win 7/8.1 through sneaky/hidden updates, as a backdoor for the NSA to track certain undesirable individuals for National Security purposes.

    So far, only the EU and repressive regimes like China and Russia, could curtail this evilness of US tech companies, eg GDPR, Windows N edition, China banned Google Search and Facebook, Win 10 China Government edition, etc.
    P S – Making voice calls on the phone should be more private or more away from the prying eyes of US tech companies and the NSA, compared to sending text messages and emails.

    1. John Fenderson said on May 7, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      @AnorKnee Merce: “Making voice calls on the phone should be more private or more away from the prying eyes of US tech companies and the NSA, compared to sending text messages and emails.”

      This is absolutely true if you’re in the US making a domestic phone call. Such calls have a level of legal protection (even with the existence of the legally-required back doors into the phone system) that is far greater than exist with other electronic communications.

      If, however, you’re making an international call or are originating the call from outside the US, this isn’t as true. The level of legal protections for those calls is feeble at best.

  2. ULBoom said on May 7, 2019 at 4:59 am

    Those who use this chromedgium browser and care about not being nailed with ads, being led where the browser wants you go and frequently solving captchas will likely use a third party tracking blocker.

    I don’t see how MS using chromium can do anything but stop trackers on one path, then on the next path they take and so on. Yeah, MS could constantly update their definitions as third parties do but that’s a lot of work and only partially effective since chromium is designed to collect user data in ways that cannot be disabled.

    Until there’s legislation to stop tracking, it seems foolish to believe what any company that makes huge amounts of money serving ads says.

  3. VioletMoon said on May 7, 2019 at 3:31 am

    Sort of an oxymoron–MS and privacy.

    Seems Opera is way ahead of the game with a built-in VPN and adblocker:

    “No add-ons required

    Opera’s ad blocker is built right into the browser. No installation and setup required, just turn on ad blocking in the browser settings.

    Of course, not all ads are evil. You can easily unblock ads on any website, if you want.”

    “Opera is the first and still only major browser that integrates a free, unlimited VPN service, allowing you to focus on the content that matters without fear of losing privacy.”

    Something is amiss when a browser with such a small market share can and does offer what the major player could offer.

    1. crambie said on May 7, 2019 at 10:19 am

      I suggest you read up on the Opera pseudo VPN and don’t use it (same goes for most free vpn’s). It logs everything you do. So shock horror to no one, it turns out Opera and privacy is an oxymoron too.

      As far as built in ad blockers go it’s not unique in that respect, wasn’t even the first to do it, but none of them do as a good a job as installing ubo.

      But there’s no way I’ll ever be using a MS/Google love child browser either.

      1. VioletMoon said on May 7, 2019 at 6:20 pm

        @crambie–It’s true, and even many paid VPNs log something, somewhere, at some time. I use Ublock Origin, and I rarely use Opera unless in FF or Chrome the add-ons are breaking certain sites. The only reason to mention Opera is that “it’s a step in the right direction.” The same concept with Opera with “real” privacy is a possibility that will become the standard as the years roll by.

  4. Tom Hawack said on May 7, 2019 at 12:53 am

    I guess it depends of the aggressiveness’ components. Firefox’s built-in Tracking Protection does break some sites yet is far less powerful than uBlock Origin, especially with the proper rules, which doesn’t break sites here even with substantial filtering. But for beginners better than nothing.

    What is remarkable IMO — remarkable yet not surprising — is the fact companies seem to start realizing the increasing interest for privacy. Markets always adapt. People want organic foodstuffs, markets get in the row, same with privacy. But is organic food sold in supermarkets worth the quality of what you find on the farm, are browser-built privacy tools worth what small staffs develop? I don’t think so.

    1. YLBoom said on May 7, 2019 at 4:44 am

      Just like the definition of organic varies with the type of food sold, built in browser tracking controls vary too and stop far less than third party ones.

      1. John Fenderson said on May 7, 2019 at 5:38 pm


        Well said. In the US, “organic” is an unregulated term and can be used on literally anything, organic or not. Much of the noise I’m hearing from the large companies about privacy strongly reminds me of that situation.

  5. John IL said on May 6, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Well if you get too aggressive you start breaking web sites. Then a lot more users start complaining and don’t know what to do. I think as default you have to find a more balanced approach to privacy. Not sure that many are so concerned given the huge user base of Chrome.

  6. Tom Hawack said on May 6, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Just trying to figure out who may ever choose ‘Unrestricted’
    ‘Balanced’ sounds nice given ‘Strict’ is announced as breaking some sites…

    If i was running Windows 10 (I won’t install Chromium Edge here on Win7) I admit I’d be tempted to give this browser a try.

    Maybe the leading browser within 5, 10 years? That would be funny, Microsoft’s come-back on the browser stage, users applauding and Google Chrome increasingly condemned as Firefox is nowadays.

  7. EdgeTheChromeClone said on May 6, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Microsoft is no longer relevant to the Web browser market. It took them almost 10 years to come up with the utterly useless junk called Edge; and they’ll need 10 more years to figure that they can’t even do a Chrome clone.

  8. Boomerang Kid said on May 6, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    All the in-built browser options are really basic. Still waiting for the first browser to implement uMatrix by default…

  9. QP said on May 6, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    Sorry MS, you are quite late to the party, as usual.

  10. user17843 said on May 6, 2019 at 9:02 pm
    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 6, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      That is different. Those delete data that Google collects automatically when configured, but nothing gets blocked. I talked about this a couple of days ago:

      1. user17843 said on May 6, 2019 at 9:33 pm

        I’m confused. Your article talks about auto-deleting feature within a google account, but the recent piece by the WSJ (which is an exclusive story from today) specifically mentions cookies in Chrome:

        “Chrome users will get more information on what cookies are tracking them and how to block them”

        Looks like something similar to Edge tracking protection to me.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 6, 2019 at 9:37 pm

        You are right, that sounds different. Will be interesting to see what comes out of this.

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