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Microsoft IE 9 Tracking Protection Up for W3C Review

Microsoft's tracking protection approach, which is used in the Internet Explorer 9 release candidate, is up for review at the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). The review could possibly lead to broader adoption of the approach as a W3C Recommendation.

Redmond's newest browser, the IE 9 release candidate that was issued earlier this month, incorporates the technology as an optional feature. As described by Microsoft, tracking protection is designed to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring user click-stream data. The W3C will discuss the technology on April 28 and 29 at Princeton University.

Under the "Web Tracking Protection" method proposed at the W3C, users express a do-not-track preference in a browser. The preference gets reflected in a HTTP header and a document object model property called "document.navigator.doNotTrack," according to the W3C's description.

Users have to turn on tracking protection in IE 9 and subscribe to lists of URLs, according to Microsoft's scheme. The lists, which are maintained by independent parties, are designed to stop tracking by advertisers but they can also be used to opt into specific advertiser tracking, if the user so desires.

Microsoft is not alone in providing browser tracking protection. Mozilla and Google recently introduced their own technologies, but it's not clear if the W3C is considering them.

Mozilla released a beta of Firefox 4 this month that incorporates a "Do Not Track" privacy feature. It too uses an HTTP header to signal the user's preference. Do Not Track needs to be turned on in the "advanced" screen under "options" in the Firefox 4 beta. Ads still get seen by users, but cross-site tracking is blocked, according to an explanation by Sid Stamm, a Mozilla security and privacy engineer.

Google introduced a feature for its Chrome browser last month called "Keep My Opt-Outs" that the company claims will let the user "opt out permanently from ad tracking cookies." The code for this feature is open source and Google plans to make it available for use in other browsers. Keep My Opt-Outs currently does not let users select which cookies to decline and accept, according to Google's description. It presently works only for U.S. market-based advertisers who have voluntarily joined a program that respects user opt-out choices.

In other W3C news, the Working Draft of HTML 5 is said to be on schedule to become a final standard in 2014. Microsoft and other browser makers have been championing HTML 5 as a way to create richer graphical experiences using native HTML 5 code.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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