Internet Explorer 9 Anti-Tracking System Gets Thumbs Up

Dennis Faas's picture

A new feature in Internet Explorer is a major boost for Microsoft's web browser "Tracking Protection" system. The feature, which will debut in Internet Explorer 9, is a response to calls by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for Internet to make it easier for users to opt out of being tracked online.

The FTC doesn't want sites to ditch all tracking activities, but rather desires site visitors to have the power to prevent their details being passed on to third parties. This is most relevant with advertising; for example, if a company wants to display an advertisement based around the particular topics a user has looked at on a website.

Customized Do Not Track List Involved

The Microsoft system involves users setting up a Do Not Track list, with sites they don't want their information shared with.

If the system works as designed, the browser will automatically block any attempt to share details with sites on the list. That's in contrast to the original FTC proposal, where the browser would merely display a request to sites and it would be up to the site producers to decide whether to take any notice.

Microsoft submitted the idea to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body that aims to develop standards for the Internet to ensure greater consistency between sites and browsers. As well as developing guidelines to make websites accessible to people with disabilities, W3C was the key player behind the development of HTML 5, the newest version of the code language that is at the heart of most websites.

Option Allows Blocking of All Outgoing Information

The submission is slightly different than Microsoft's original idea Microsoft. As well as allowing lists of blocked sites, the revised system would also include an option to simply block any sharing. This would still require websites to follow the request, but Microsoft hopes that building this into a web standard would mean doing so was officially considered good practice. (Source:

W3C has now formally accepted the submission, which covers the technical details behind the Microsoft system. This doesn't guarantee it will be formally accepted as a standard, but shows W3C is taking it seriously. It's calling for public opinion and will discuss the idea at a two-day workshop in April. According to W3C, the Microsoft idea is "both timely and well-aligned with [W3C]'s objectives and priorities." (Source:

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