Microsoft's IE Chief Talks Browsing Privacy

Microsoft's release candidate for Internet Explorer 9 -- made available for download this week -- includes a tool that lets users protect themselves from being tracked on the Web. During his recent trip to Germany, we sat down with Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for the development of Internet Explorer, to discuss privacy, the difference between expected and creepy tracking, Tracking Protection in IE9, market share and how hard it is to get rid of Internet Explorer 6. An edited version of the conversation follows.

By Moritz Jäger
Fri, February 11, 2011

IDG News Service — Microsoft's (MSFT) release candidate for Internet Explorer 9 -- made available for download this week -- includes a tool that lets users protect themselves from being tracked on the Web. During his recent trip to Germany, we sat down with Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for the development of Internet Explorer, to discuss privacy, the difference between expected and creepy tracking, Tracking Protection in IE9, market share and how hard it is to get rid of Internet Explorer 6. An edited version of the conversation follows.

Slideshow: http://www.cio.com/article/617513">Internet Explorer 9: A Visual Tour
IE9: 5 Ways It Cuts Browser Clutter
FAQ: Say Hello to IE9

IDG: Let's talk privacy -- you announced a new feature called Tracking Protection for IE9 in December. How was it received?

Hachamovitch: After the announcement of Tracking Protection, it was remarkable to see how much interest we got. We got questions from academics, press and governments. The talk at CES in January was also significant -- normally they interview people like the CEO from NVIDIA (NVDA) or the COO of Twitter, and now they wanted to know about privacy.

IDG: How does Tracking Protection work in detail?

Hachamovitch: If you look at a modern webpage, you almost never have a static webpage, they're more like a mosaic of different services. You get a video from here, an ad from there and even small white pictures with a size of 1 x 1 pixel...

IDG: What do those do?

Hachamovitch: Those are mostly tracking pixels. They measure, for example, how many hits a site gets. It's important to understand that cookies are only one way to track users on the Web. There are also tracking pixels and a variety of others. The fact is that users on the Web are tracked, often without their knowledge and without their consent. Another important aspect is the distinction between tracking and advertising. Not all tracking is advertising, not all advertising is tracking. The third aspect is that you have to distinguish between expected tracking and unexpected tracking. If I buy a book at Amazon, for example, or listen to a song on Last.FM, I know that the service will track my behavior. I know it will use this data to show me similar things which I might like, and thus enhance my experience.

The other thing is unexpected tracking or, as I call it, creepy tracking. The user gets no information about which service is tracking his online behavior, how this information is used or where it ends up. It is precisely this kind of tracking that we want to address with Tracking Protection. The technology will be an integral part of all versions of IE9, starting with the Release Candidate of IE9.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies