Microsoft has revealed that Internet Explorer 9 will include features to combat the tracking of online user behaviour by web sites, following the endorsement of some form of 'Do Not Track' mechanism by the US Federal Trade Commission.
The company said in a posting on the IEBlog that the measures will be added to a forthcoming Release Candidate version of IE9.
These will include an opt-in mechanism that can identify and block many forms of undesired tracking, and Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs) that will give users control over how third-party site content can track their online activity.
"We believe that the combination of consumer opt-in, an open platform for publishing of TPLs, and the underlying technology mechanism for Tracking Protection offer new options and a good balance between empowering consumers and online industry needs," wrote Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Internet Explorer.
TPLs will work by allowing users to specify web sites that the browser will contact only if these are explicitly visited, either by clicking on a link or entering the URL.
This is designed to stop people being tracked through web controls or content pulled from third-party web sites when a page is loaded, a method that lets sites track users covertly. Microsoft describes this as a 'Do Not Call' telephone list for the online world.
However, the company also warned that blocking content from external sites with this approach could stop some sites from working, and that the TPLs will be configured as empty by default.
"While 'Do not track' is a meaningful consumer promise around data use, the web lacks a good precise definition of what tracking means," wrote Hachamovitch.
"Until we get there, we can make progress by providing consumers with a way to limit or control the data collected about them on sites they don't visit directly."
These anti-tracking measures build on the privacy safeguards Microsoft introduced in IE8, including InPrivate Browsing, which stops Internet Explorer from storing data such as cookies, temporary internet files and history during a browsing session.
Microsoft has yet to disclose a final availability date for IE9, which is expected sometime early in 2011.
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