The browser, Internet Explorer 9, will join Mozilla’s Firefox in implementing a “do not track” feature to prevent advertisers from recording users’ browsing behavior to provide targeted ads. When activated, the tool automatically sends a message to each website a user visits informing them that the user has opted out of being tracked by online advertisers.
Unlike the National Do-Not-Call Registry though, compliance is still strictly voluntary – while the system was proposed by the Federal Trade Commission in December and will likely have official regulatory backing at some point, for now it relies on advertisers to honor users’ requests for privacy.
That’s why the new version of IE (which, curiously enough, will not be supported on Windows XP) will also have another feature it calls “tracking protection,” which blocks add-on programs used by websites to track users’ browsing habits. The opt-in system allows users to activate independently-maintained tracking protection lists, each of which aims to block tracking technologies without requiring the voluntary compliance of the advertisers themselves.
The aggressive privacy features come as Microsoft attempts to deal with growing competition from Firefox and Google’s Chrome, each of which have begun to cut into IE’s once-commanding share of the Web browser market. According to the latest report from internet analysts at Net Applications, Internet Explorer now claims a 57% market share, compared with 22% for Firefox and 11% for Chrome.
But with Chrome only offering an opt-out browser extension to restrict access to users’ personal data and Firefox relying entirely on the optional “do not track” system, it would appear that Microsoft’s two-pronged approach may make it the best option for privacy-conscious users.
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