December 07, 2010, 9:02 PM — Microsoft today revealed a new security control in Internet Explorer 9 which will enable users to restrict sites from tracking them. The ability to control access to tracking data from within the browser is a welcome addition, but the feature is not exactly fool-proof.
Earlier this month the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a scathing report on the state of online consumer privacy, coupled with a call for a Web-surfing equivalent to the "Do Not Call" list. The "Do Not Track" initiative as a government policy is still embryonic, but the privacy features in IE9 let users exercise similar control over which sites have access to personal data like the Web browsing history.
A post on Microsoft's IEBlog explains, "Today, consumers share information with more Web sites than the ones they see in the address bar in their browser. This is inherent in the design of the Web and simply how the Web works, and it has potentially unintended consequences. As consumers visit one site, many other sites receive information about their activities," adding, "When the browser calls any other Web site to request anything (an image, a cookie, HTML, a script that can execute), the browser explicitly provides information in order to get information. By limiting data requests to these sites, it is possible to limit the data available to these sites for collection and tracking."
In a nutshell, the IE9 "Do Not Track" capability is essentially just an evolution of security controls that are already present in Internet Explorer 8. The privacy control enables users to create Tracking Protection Lists (TPL) of domain names that will only be visited if directly clicked or typed in the browser address bar. But, the domains in the TPL will not be able to surreptitiously receive information as a third-party to a different site that is overtly visited.