Internet Explorer 9 Doubles Web Privacy Control

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) supports two separate technologies for restricting access to information related to a user's online activity. One of the privacy features was recently prompted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Both technologies involve the way websites share data with third-parties. The most prominent example is with advertisements that appear on a page; for example, rather than simply linking ads to the page content (such as a newspaper site running golf equipment ads alongside a golf match report), a site might pass on details of all the pages a user has visited on the site.

Related Ads Displayed Depend on Pages Visited

For example, an advertiser on a newspaper website would have holiday advertisements displayed for a user who has recently visited travel section stories, even if they are on a different section of the newspaper when they see the ad.

Although some uses of this data sharing are legitimate and even beneficial (resulting in more relevant advertising), there are concerns that either the sharing of such data could be abused, or that users simply aren't aware of the activity. (Source:

Microsoft Responds to Do Not Track Feature

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that web browser developers include a 'Do Not Track' feature, which would be a simple one-click setting that informed websites that they should not share user activity data.

In response, Microsoft noted two major weaknesses with this approach: 1) it was an all-or-nothing proposition, meaning users couldn't tweak the setting for individual sites, and 2) there was no way to guarantee websites would agree to implement non-tracking features.

Tracking Protection Similar to Whitelisting

Instead, Microsoft decided Internet Explorer 9 would feature a Tracking Protection system.

This allows users to set-up a list of sites which would then be physically prevented by the browser from tracking and sharing activity. The system -- which debuted last week with the new browser release -- is set up so that users can easily download and install a list of sites. For example, one such list was created by privacy groups that have identified sites that abuse data sharing.

IE9 Now Includes Both Privacy Systems

Now Microsoft has revealed that while Tracking Protection remains the primary system in IE9, it has added a 'Do Not Track' feature -- just as the FTC envisioned -- as a secondary option. Users can switch on both tools, either or neither.

According to Dean Hachamovitch, who heads up the department responsible for Internet Explorer, the idea of including both systems is intended to give users more control. (Source:

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