Critical Infrastructure Security, Network Security

Microsoft unveils privacy controls in Internet Explorer 8

Microsoft plans to include new privacy features in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), which is due out later this year.

"With respect to privacy, IE8 gives users more choice about controlling what information they keep and exchange," Andy Zeigler, an IE program manager, wrote Monday on Microsoft's IEBlog.

He said IE8 will include InPrivate Browsing, an option that will expunge browsing history, cookies and temporary internet files as soon as a user closes the window.

"If you are using a shared PC, a borrowed laptop from a friend, or a public PC, sometimes you don't want other people to know where you've been on the web," Zeigler said.

For those users wanting to maintain their preferences on frequently visited websites, such as banks, IE8 will include an option that lets users retain cookies and temporary internet files from sites saved in their Favorites list.

"To avoid having your favorite sites 'forget you,' simply add them to your Favorites and make sure the 'Preserve Favorites website data' checkbox is selected," Zeigler said.

IE8 also comes outfitted with InPrivate Blocking, a feature that will block sites that are not using cookies from tracking users, he said.

"While you browse the web, your IE keeps a local record of which third-party items your browser accesses," Zeigler wrote. "When you choose to browse with InPrivate, IE automatically blocks sites that have 'seen' you across more than 10 times."

With the browser's release, users also will have the option to sign up for InPrivate Subscriptions, which take the thinking out of blocking or allowing content. Users can leverage lists of websites in which the publisher of the list decides which content IE permits.

Fueled by competition and debates in Congress, many companies -- Microsoft included -- are thinking about the value of privacy, said Chris Hoofnagle, a senior fellow at the University of California's Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

He told on Tuesday in an email that adoption of the new Microsoft controls will be the biggest question mark, as many users mistakenly assume robust privacy laws already are in place that place limits on the collection and use of their personal information.

"If consumers think their privacy is already protected, promotion will have to be strong," Hoofnagle said. "That could take the form of promoting the features in the browser (much like how some Microsoft Office tools call attention to themselves) or by turning some of them on by default."

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