The Wall Street Journal reports on new privacy safeguards in the latest version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser.
Last Thursday, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8, commonly known as IE8. The browser has features that when activated can stop advertising networks from seeing which sites Web surfers have visited, which is data needed for the growing – and controversial – field of behaviorally targeted advertising.
The browser’s blocking features may address concerns expressed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which wants user privacy protected, but Microsoft’s ability to collect data needed to deliver targeted ads is still preserved. That’s because the privacy settings are cumbersome, so analysts think few Web surfers will likely turn them on.
One key feature, called InPrivate Filtering, allows users to block third-party ad networks – including Microsoft’s – from tracking their online behavior, an important part of compiling user profiles that help them deliver ads catered to each consumer’s interests. That function needs to be activated for each new browsing session. […]
Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, speculated that the company likely watered down privacy functions to allay concerns from its own advertising unit that stringent controls could hamper its attempts to collect data.
“The easiest thing would have been to give users a single button,” Rosoff said, adding that in beta versions of IE8 InPrivate Filtering and InPrivate Browsing were incorporated in a single function and later separated.