Thursday, September 20, 2012

In Microsoft’s New Browser, the Privacy Light Is Already On -

In Microsoft’s New Browser, the Privacy Light Is Already On -

IT could usher in a new era of online privacy. Or it might bowdlerize the Internet as we know it.

Then again, it might do almost nothing at all.

The item in question is Microsoft’s latest version of its Internet Explorer browser, scheduled to be available to consumers in late October, packaged with Windows 8. The browser comes with an option called “do not track.” It lets users indicate whether they’d like to see ads tailored to them by companies that track their online browsing histories — or whether they’d rather not have their online activities tracked, recorded, analyzed and stored for marketing purposes.

Of course, browsers like Firefox from Mozilla, Safari from Apple and even an earlier version of Internet Explorer already offered this choice for people who expressed a preference. But Microsoft is going further — by making privacy a more public issue. The new Internet Explorer 10 comes with the don’t-track-me option automatically enabled, a fact that the software makes clear. During installation, a notice will appear giving users the choice to keep that preselected don’t-track-me preference as is, or switch it off on a customization menu.

It’s a radical move for a technology company, especially one like Microsoft, with an ad business of its own.

“No one says today, when a consumer first loads a product, ‘Hey, by the way, there are some privacy choices you may want to consider,’ ” says Alex Fowler, the global privacy and policy leader at Mozilla. He believes that this may be the first time that privacy features so prominently “in the first-run experience of a consumer software product.”

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