Microsoft has unveiled a surprise Internet Explorer 9 feature which it will offer for testing to the public with the Release Candidate (RC) Build of the browser, planned for delivery in early 2011.
IE9 will be epitome of browser choice and control as far as protecting user privacy goes. Starting with IE9 RC and continuing with the RTW Build, customers will be able to easily block particular or multiple websites from tracking their online activity.
“IE9 will offer consumers a new opt-in mechanism (“Tracking Protection”) to identify and block many forms of undesired tracking,” revealed Dean Hachamovitch, Corporate Vice President, Internet Explorer.
In addition, “’Tracking Protection Lists’ will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they’re online.”
Hachamovitch notes that while he expects the feature to be used, he doesn’t see widespread adoption.
It’s important to note that the Tracking Protection feature is turned off by default, and that users would need to be sufficiently concerned by their privacy in order to enable it.
In addition, the Redmond company won’t be providing a Tracking Protection List. Hachamovitch underlined that it’s critical for customers to choose to control what websites get access to their browsing data, and not get a default list with blocked sites from Microsoft.
“The list is empty by default for two reasons: controlling this aspect of the browser’s behavior is up to the consumer. The browser vendor provides the functionality and respects the consumer’s choices here,” he explained.
And “restricting content from external sites can make some functionality in sites stop working along with the other web mechanisms (cookies, web beacons, and the like) that might be essential to how the sites operate.”
According to Microsoft all users will be able to put together their own TPLs, or access lists from other users or organizations. The items will integrate seamlessly into Internet Explorer 9, and in fact they are very easy to ad, involving simple steps, and update, much in the same manner as an RSS feed which IE9 will check regularly for changes.
The promise from the software giant is that the file format of the lists will be offered to third-parties under a Creative Commons Attribution license and the Microsoft Open Specification Promise.
“In addition to “Do Not Call” entries that prevent information requests to some web addresses, lists can include “OK to Call” entries that permit calls to specific addresses. In this way, a consumer can make exceptions to restrictions on one list easily by adding another list that includes “OK to Call” overrides for particular addresses,” Hachamovitch explained.
“We designed this feature so that consumers have a clear, straight forward, opt-in mechanism to enable a higher degree of control over sharing their browsing information AND websites can provide easy to use lists to manage their privacy as well as experience full-featured sites.”
What needs to be clear to users is that in its default configuration IE9 will not offer the benefits associated with Tracking Protection.
The tool will indeed ship with the browser, but it will be the users that switch it on, and that also make sure to get the necessary lists to protect their privacy from websites that are tracking their browsing, or to allow tracking in scenarios in which they trust to share their information with third-parties that collect usage data.
Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) Beta is available for download here.
Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) Platform Preview 7 (PP7) is available for download here.