Privacy online is a very important issue these days, and there are an increasing number of cases of sites snooping on users' data without their permission.
However, Microsoft is hoping that it will be able to give us all a little more protection with a new anti-tracking tool built into Internet Explorer 9 that's designed to keep private data private. Tracking Protection will monitor which sites request browsing data and use block lists to determine whether it can pass on data regarding a users browsing, shopping or social networking habits.
This sort of information is routinely used to help generate targeted adverts, and the tool may prevent some of these sorts of banners from working properly. However, users will be able to control the feature on a case-by-case basis, generating a custom 'don't call' list.
According to Microsoft corporate VP for Internet Explorer Dean Hachamovitch, "consumers have very little awareness or control over who can track their online activity". However, the inclusion is mainly a response to a recent FTC report that criticised the technology industry for failing to move quickly enough with respect to privacy.
In addition, the company will be making the format of the tracking protection lists available under a Creative Commons license, meaning that other browsers can integrate them if they choose. These lists will then be updated automatically to give users better protection from sites trying to acquire their data.
Tracking protection should be integrated into the next release of IE9, scheduled for early next year, although it will be an 'opt-in' feature that is disabled by default. More details, as well as a demonstration video, are available on the Internet Explorer blog.