Microsoft explains third-party tracking decision

"We're not saying we have the answer"

IE9 offering up Tracking Protection

Microsoft has explained its thinking behind the Tracking Protection in IE9 – a feature that will "identify and block many forms of undesired tracking" – but admits that it does not want to become involved in creating a blocked list itself.

With privacy an increasingly important topic when it comes to browser choice. Microsoft is keen to ensure that it is giving consumers options to stop sites from picking up information from them if they do not want to give it.

However, presumably due to concern that any list that it creates will lead to criticism, Microsoft will allow third parties to create lists – a decision that is likely to also cause alarm, not least in the advertising world.

"The privacy thing has been something we've been thinking about for a while," UK Internet Explorer lead Julia Owen told TechRadar. "It's a new thing for us.

"Essentially there's an increasing groundswell of worry about privacy on internet. It's partly to do with how people have started to get more social and we share all sorts of things with social networks.


"If you go to a site like Facebook, there is stuff coming from third parties and going back out with third parties and I think most people are not aware of that going on and that there is data being collected about what they are doing on that website."


So Microsoft believes that people should know exactly what information they are sharing through things like cookies, and decide if they should block certain sites and advertising tracking.

"We think what we ought to do is give you the power, added Owen. "Some people are fine. They want to live their public, others are completely private and don't want to share anything and the rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

"So [we added] Tracking Protection as a feature in IE9. We're at the moment partnering with number of site including eTrust and they have created a list for us."

The list is essentially a block list of sites that can or can't follow you, and companies or individuals can create their own versions that Microsoft could host in its 'gallery'.

Tracking lists


There are obvious worries about the power of a dominant list; which could reap havoc on the current online advertising model, for instance, or act as a barrier for some sites' business.

"I think that actually if [Microsoft] created the list you would [question] Microsoft creating the list," said Owen.

"This is a matter of public debate at the moment. We're not saying we have the answer, we are saying we care about it a great deal.

"We think this is one way to address this issue. There are organisations that will help make the decision [of who to block] for you if you don't feel comfortable making those decisions for yourself.

"There will be a lot of debate about who to block and one of the reasons why it ought to be not us that creates that list is that it needs that debate and needs to be decided in public."

Microsoft insists that it is not passing the buck on tracking – which is already a hot issue in the EU – but it remains to be seen if giving the decision making to third parties becomes an issue that could shake up content provision on the internet as a whole.

Not an ad-blocker

Microsoft also provided TechRadar with their official explanation for the Tracking Protection, explaining that it is 'not designed as an ad blocker'.

"Tracking Protection is designed to give users more control of the amount of information they share with third party sites," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

"There is no impact on advertising behavior for sites the user has not explicitly placed on a Tracking Protection List. While not designed as an ad blocker, it is possible some content served by blocked third parties (that may include ad distributors) will not display.

"Anyone can create a Tracking Protection List, including advertisers and ad trade groups. As such we believe that Internet Explorer 9's new set of privacy features attempts to provide a balance between customer choice, customer control and ad industry needs.

"Tracking Protection was made available in IE9 RC. We are committed to receiving feedback as we build IE9 and we look forward to feedback from consumers, publishers, advertisers and the industry as whole."

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