Microsoft adds Tracking Protection to IE9

Microsoft has announced a new privacy enhancement feature it's adding to Internet Explorer 9, known as Tracking Protection, which aims to create a Do Not Track registry for websites.

The Tracking Protection system, which will début in the next release of Internet Explorer, uses a blacklisting system to prevent websites from accessing a user's private information - such as a browsing history list or stored cookies. Rather than relying on an end-user to physically blacklist every 'dodgy' site on the web, the Tracking Protection lists will be downloaded from a central source.

Microsoft, however, won't be that source. Corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch explained: "By default, there are no lists included in IE9, which is consistent with our previous IE releases with respect to privacy. Anyone, and any organization, on the Web can author and publish Tracking Protection Lists. Consumers can install more than one."

The lists will work in a similar way to those available for ad-blocking add-ons such as AdBlock Plus, containing the addresses of sites that users might want to have tighter privacy controls over. By farming the work out to third-parties, it's possible for lists specific to different requirements to be created: users will be able to choose to block tracking on malicious sites, mainstream advertising sites, or whatever they think is necessary.

To prevent the system from blocking content that the user wants, a whitelisting option will be available - and users can either add addresses into the list themselves or again subscribe to a third-party list.

Although the final release of Internet Explorer 9, which is currently in a beta phase, will ship with the Tracking Protection technology, it will be disabled by default - requiring a user to both activate the system and subscribe to at least one blacklist service.

It's a move that privacy enthusiasts will applaud and advertisers will likely deride, but given Microsoft's track record with security and privacy enhancing features in Internet Explorer - such as the recent investigation into IE's Protected Mode, which revealed numerous flaws that rendered its 'protection' moot - it's not likely to phase those who rely on user tracking to generate their income for long.