Internet Explorer 8

September 3, 2008 at 2:00 am 6 comments

I caught up with James Dellow last week. James and I used to work together so it was good to see him. He’s a prolific blogger and now works at IPP Consulting with Brian Bailey (who I also used to work with – small world). Check out their Information and Knowledge Management section, which James has created. I asked James about Twitter as I’m yet to be convinced I should be twittering. But that’s another blog post. Perhaps James, you can look into Internet Explorer 8 for me and see if I’ve left out anything in this post!

Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 with new features to enhance privacy. “InPrivate Browsing” allows a user to ferret around the internet without leaving a history trail. So your browsing history, cached files and cookies are not recorded. Here’s what Microsoft says about this feature:

Sometimes you don’t want to leave any trace of specific web browsing activity, such as when checking e-mail at an Internet café or shopping for a gift on a family PC. InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer 8 helps prevent your browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies, and usernames and passwords from being retained by the browser, leaving no evidence of your browsing or search history.”

So your browsing history is completely erased when the browser window is closed. Another feature is InPrivate Blocking, which allows you to block content coming from third parties trying to track online behaviour. You can download IE8 for free here.

Now, naturally I’m very interested in this from a privacy perspective. Safari has its own Private Browsing feature (which I use) and Firefox has plugins so Microsoft is catching up. But I’m wondering if Microsoft is making a move against Google too. As I understand it, Google Analytics allows companies to get around the domain-based restriction that cookies provide. So with cookies, there’s a unique identifier a website can store within the cookie, which allows the website or company to observe your browsing history and push advertising content to you. But only the domain that created the cookie can read it so your browsing history can’t be tracked across different domains you visit. Google Analytics allows websites to use the same source domain as a script, so Google can track your browsing behaviour across any site that is using the Google Analytics script.

InPrivate Blocking sniffs out when the same script is being used and blocks tracking of your searching behaviour. This is what the IE8 blurb says: “When you choose to browse with InPrivate, IE automatically blocks sites that have “seen” you across more than ten sites.” So this means that if Google Analytics is being used as a tracking system across more than ten sites, you can block it. Perhaps the real reason behind IE8 is not so much privacy protection as blocking advertising content from Microsoft’s competitors?

I’m sure the advertising industry might be worried about this feature. I’m still not sure if you have to turn InPrivate Blocking on every browser session or not. The Washington Post is calling the feature an “accidental ad blocker” but it’s a plus for privacy if you ask me!

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Entry filed under: Privacy, Technology. Tags: , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Andrew Mitchell  |  September 4, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Chrome, Google’s new browser, also has this feature.

    Reply
  • 2. thinkingshift  |  September 4, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Andrew: yes, I saw it’s release yesterday I think it was. Papers today are saying Google is suffering from a red face as it’s had to back down because it seems that a clause in its End User License Agreement gave Google rights over any information entered into websites by users.
    Check out this article from The Age http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/09/04/1220121394391.html

    To quote: “Users who downloaded the free browser yesterday were asked to agree to a clause that gave Google a “perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly, perform, publicly display and distribute” any information they typed into a website.”

    So Google theoretically could have done anything with any information you posted, searched or displayed – including maybe even sharing said info with third parties.

    Duh Google!

    Reply
  • 3. James Dellow  |  September 5, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Yes, I was listening! IMHO these features might cover your tracks on your computer and stop companies from tracking you directly, but unless you use an anonymous proxy service your IP address and the unencrypted data you send and receive will reveal a lot about you.

    Reply
  • 4. thinkingshift  |  September 5, 2008 at 3:12 am

    I knew you would be on the case James 🙂 perhaps I was too hasty in saying IE8 is a boon to privacy!

    Reply
  • 5. Ohlala  |  September 6, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Oops!!! I was going to download Chrome!!!

    Reply
  • 6. thinkingshift  |  September 12, 2008 at 2:02 am

    UPDATE: ThinkingShift reader, Andrew Mitchell, has sent me a link to further news about Chrome:

    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2008/09/portfolio_0905

    thx Andrew!

    Reply

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