Tuesday Microsoft announced that a tracking protection tool will be integrated into its latest browser, Internet Explorer 9 in early 2011.
The news arrives after the Federal Trade Commission claimed in a December 1 report (pdf) that industry self-regulation of privacy was "too slow" and that the sector has "failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection." The new tool also arrives after a recent report indicated that more than 40 websites currently exploit user activities by "sniffing" browser histories.
According to Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president in charge of the Internet Explorer team, Internet Explorer 9 will offer consumers a new opt-in Tracking Protection feature to identify and block "many forms of undesired tracking." Additionally, Tracking Protection Lists will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they're online-- essentially a "Do Not Call / Do Call" list for the Internet.
"We believe that the combination of consumer opt-in, an open platform for publishing of Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs), and the underlying technology mechanism for Tracking Protection offer new options and a good balance between empowering consumers and online industry needs," Hachamovitch said. "They further empower consumers and complement many of the other ideas under discussion."
As previously mentioned, the new tool will be turned off by default, so IE9 users will need to manually toggle the feature on. The actual lists will be defined by users who in turn can share them with others to offer the same protection. Surprisingly, Microsoft has decided to make the new protection tool open-licensed, allowing other browser developers to incorporate the technology into their software.
"We designed this functionality as a good start to enable consumer choice and protection from potential tracking," he said. "We provide a tool in the browser, and consumers choose how to use it. As with everything on the web, we expect it to evolve over time especially as the broader privacy dialog continues. We’re communicating about it now as part of our transparency in the software development process."
To see how the anti-tracking tool will work, check out Microsoft's video here.