Microsoft’s New “Private” Anti-Advertising Browser Turns Out to Be Not That Private

22 Gen Microsoft’s New “Private” Anti-Advertising Browser Turns Out to Be Not That Private

BNET, CA, By Jim Edwards, January 21, 2009
ValueClick’s Commission Junction unit, which handles affiliate marketing ad programs on the web, recently produced a report on Microsoft’s new InPrivate Browsing feature on the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE8. ValueClick wanted to know: Will InPrivate Browsing prevent web advertisers — horrors! — from tracking customers? The answer to that question is of desperate importance to internet advertisers because even though Q4 traffic to retail sites was up, actual online sales were down. The new feature of IE8 is intended to prevent your browser from retaining your browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, usernames, passwords and the dreaded cookies — those things that tell advertisers who you are and where you’ve been. Put simply, it seems to promise the one thing that web users have always wanted — the freedom to browse in secret and leave no trace. But advertisers need have no fear. Here’s ValueClick’s assessment of IE8: So how does private browsing affect Commission Junction’s capability to track consumers’ purchases via affiliate links? Not that much. For those of you wonder why it’s so hard to surf the net anonymously, the ValueClick report will make enlightening reading. Essentially, it concludes that any consumer who wants complete anonymity will have to surf “InPrivate” all the time, forever, and mostly not buy anything. Here are the anti-private highlights of ValueClick’s assessment, as covered by The good news for advertisers is that private browsing is not the default setting for any of these browsers (the feature must be enabled by the user) and it does not block or delete cookies. Even after initiating InPrivate Browsing — as long as they have cookies enabled in their browsers — consumers can use an affiliate link to go to your site and, if they complete their transactions during the same session, the transactions will be tracked by Commission Junction. Even if the consumer clicks an affiliate link before beginning the InPrivate Browsing session, the transaction will still be tracked. However, if a consumer clicks an affiliate link during an InPrivate Browsing session and then ends the session before making a purchase, then any purchase that consumer makes during a return visit to your Web site without going directly through an affiliate link will not be tracked. In summary, InPrivate Browsing and other private browsing features will not automatically block all cookies and will continue to work with most solutions, like Commission Junction, that track cookies. And of the small minority of consumers who may choose to enable the private browsing feature before they shop, the majority will complete their transactions during the same session, which will allow the tracking of purchases through affiliate links. Oh well, nice try, Microsoft. Other browsers that have similar privacy functions include Apple’s Safari, Google’s new Chrome browser, and the next version of Mozilla’s Firefox.