Microsoft has unveiled plans to ship a new feature within the Internet Explorer 9 browser which will allow users to avoid web sites tracking their movements.
The company is proposing an opt-in feature called Tracking Protection Lists which will the browser will refer to in order to decide which web sites are able to track the user and which should be denied. Microsoft doesn’t plan to offer the lists themselves but rather interested third parties such as privacy advocates, security firms and so on will offer such lists to the end user.
Microsoft's move follows a call from the US regulator the FTC for browser developers to implement a ‘do not track’ button which would block third-party tracking. Microsoft’s solution appears to be exactly that but implemented in a rather more reliable and selective manner which can provide the privacy benefits of blocking while still allowing the utility of various sites in being able to provide relevant content, adverts or otherwise.
“A Tracking Protection List (TPL) contains web addresses (like msdn.com) that the browser will visit (or “call”) only if the consumer visits them directly by clicking on a link or typing their address,” said Microsoft Internet Explorer veep Dean Hachamovitch.
“By limiting the calls to these websites and resources from other web pages, the TPL limits the information these other sites can collect.”
Hachamovitch described the feature as a web translation of the “Do Not Call” list from the telephone.
In an unusual move for Microsoft, the firm even went so far as to document an open standard for such a file based on XML although it remains to be seen how receptive rival browser developers are towards adopting the feature.
Microsoft published a blur-o-vision video discussion of what they have planned as well as a lengthy description of the context and technical measures being proposed which you can view here.