Microsoft has announced that Internet Explorer 9 will include a tool for consumers to specifically bar a website from sharing details about what they do online. In some ways, the measure actually goes a step beyond ideas recently proposed by the Federal Trade Commission recently.
The changes are designed to deal with the way many websites pass on details of user behavior to partner sites such as advertisers.
The IE9 tool will use a system known as a “Tracking Protection List” that blocks the browser from sharing details with named sites unless the user specifically visits them either by typing in the address or clicking on a link to the site.
By default, the list for each user will start off blank, making it an opt-in system. The idea is that consumers can not only add sites manually, but can subscribe to lists maintained by privacy groups (or anyone else who wants to add a site). These subscriptions will automatically be updated as and when the person or group maintaining the list makes changes.
Users will also have a section in the list for detailing sites which are OK to share information with. This will over-ride the blocked list, making it easier for users to make exceptions to a list they subscribe to.
The Microsoft scheme is along the lines of that which the FTC has urged browser manufacturers to develop, but with some significant difference. The FTC idea was for users to be able to simply click one setting to issue a blanket “do not share” instruction. While that would have given users more scope to opt-out (in the same way as adding a phone line to a “Do not call” register), from a technical perspective the setting would simply issue an instruction and couldn’t physically force sites to comply.
The Internet Explorer solution, while requiring users to specify the sites to be blacklisted, does physically block the sharing of data.