Internet Explorer 8
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!