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    IDG News: Microsoft’s IE Chief Talks Browsing Privacy

    IDG News has an interview with Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for the development of Internet Explorer.

    IDG: Let’s talk privacy — you announced a new feature called Tracking Protection for IE9 in December. How was it received?

    Hachamovitch: After the announcement of Tracking Protection, it was remarkable to see how much interest we got. We got questions from academics, press and governments. The talk at CES in January was also significant — normally they interview people like the CEO from NVIDIA or the COO of Twitter, and now they wanted to know about privacy.

    IDG: How does Tracking Protection work in detail?

    Hachamovitch: If you look at a modern webpage, you almost never have a static webpage, they’re more like a mosaic of different services. You get a video from here, an ad from there and even small white pictures with a size of 1 x 1 pixel…

    IDG: What do those do?

    Hachamovitch: Those are mostly tracking pixels. They measure, for example, how many hits a site gets. It’s important to understand that cookies are only one way to track users on the Web. There are also tracking pixels and a variety of others. The fact is that users on the Web are tracked, often without their knowledge and without their consent. Another important aspect is the distinction between tracking and advertising. Not all tracking is advertising, not all advertising is tracking. The third aspect is that you have to distinguish between expected tracking and unexpected tracking. If I buy a book at Amazon, for example, or listen to a song on Last.FM, I know that the service will track my behavior. I know it will use this data to show me similar things which I might like, and thus enhance my experience.

    The other thing is unexpected tracking or, as I call it, creepy tracking. The user gets no information about which service is tracking his online behavior, how this information is used or where it ends up. It is precisely this kind of tracking that we want to address with Tracking Protection. The technology will be an integral part of all versions of IE9, starting with the Release Candidate of IE9. […]

    IDG: So Tracking Protection is not limited to Tracking? Can you block ads as well, for example?

    Hachamovitch: If you generate a list for it, it can block other things.

    IDG: Sounds simple enough — how do you think the site-owners and advertising companies will react?

    Hachamovitch: It has already generated a lot of interest. But I tell you what: If your list blocks a specific thing a website tries to load and a lot of people install your list, the site might go: “Wow, people are blocking these things and I need them. Hmm… if I try and explain to my visitors what this specific content does and why I need it, I might be able to convince them and they might switch to my list, which allows this particular feature.” Tracking Protection really levels the playing field for consumers compared to the people who own the site. It might even help start a conversation that otherwise won’t happen.

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