Is there such a thing as privacy?
Most people would like to think there is, especially when it comes to what you view or buy online. However, many internet sites share information about your habits and purchases without you ever knowing they are doing this. If you’ve ever received unsolicited emails from companies you’ve never heard of offering you products surprisingly like the ones you’d previously been searching for online, then your details and browsing history have more than likely been shared without your knowledge and agreement.
There has been concern for some time about this practice, particularly in the United States: the Federal Trade Commission published a report recently criticising the time it was taking for the major companies to come up with a solution to the issue of user privacy. In response Microsoft has announced that it is to release an application called IE9 which is set for release in 2011.
Microsoft calls this new tool Tracking Protection and it will enable the user to list and define the limit to which their information is shared between companies: personal details will only therefore be disclosed to those companies and organisations that the consumer wishes. In effect it acts like an ex-directory telephone system and should in theory prevent cold calling and unwanted advertisements. The default setting of the new application will be off and consumers will have to ‘opt in’ in order to use the facility. It is also working on a generic version of the application which will be released under an open licence so that other browser makers can adopt them.
Microsoft isn’t the first company to have offered this functionality – other browsers like Firefox, Chrome and Opera have already produced tools that allow users to create a list of trusted sites.
However, Microsoft believes the true value of this new tool is that it will enable users to create a list of the sites they trust and then share this information with others so that they receive the same protection.