IE8’s Cumbersome Privacy Controls May Discourage Use

24 Mar IE8’s Cumbersome Privacy Controls May Discourage Use

News Factor Network, By Patricia Resende, March 23, 2009

While Internet Explorer 8 comes with privacy controls, they are cumbersome and analysts say many users will avoid them. InPrivate Filtering in IE8 can block third-party content from detecting behavior — but not the primary Web site — and it must be turned on with each session. InPrivate Browsing is the other feature added after a warning from the FTC. Microsoft ‘s release of the final version of Internet Explorer 8 has sparked controversy on everything from glitches to market share. Now user privacy has joined the list. When Microsoft released IE8 last Thursday it included features that can block advertising networks from tracking a user’s Web surfing. The features are InPrivate Browsing and InPrivate Filtering. InPrivate Filtering (InPrivate Blocking in beta versions of IE8) allows users to block third-party content, including Microsoft’s, from detecting a user’s online behavior. The filter is off by default and must be turned on with each browsing session. “Because InPrivate Filtering is designed to watch for and block only third-party content that appears with a high frequency across sites you visit, no content is blocked until such levels are detected, nor is any such content blocked which is served directly by the site you are visiting,” according to Microsoft’s IE8 Web site. To use the feature, users must select it from the Safety menu. Users also have to customize which third-party content is blocked or allowed in the InPrivate Filtering settings. InPrivate Browsing lets users control whether or not IE8 saves browsing history, temporary Internet files, cookies, usernames, passwords or other data. If used correctly, IE8 leaves no evidence of a user’s browsing or search history. It also prevents Web sites and advertising networks from dropping cookies, or small pieces of code, onto a user’s computer. Cookies allow ad networks to see what sites a user has visited. While both features give control to the user, analysts say many users will avoid turning them on because they are cumbersome and can’t be turned on with a single click. Web sites continue to pull tracking data, often without the user being aware. Sixty-eight percent of users, however, are aware that their browsing information may be collected, according to a survey by TRUSTe. Consumers are getting accustomed to behavioral advertising and discomfort has declined from 57 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009, according to TRUSTe. Those uncomfortable with advertisers using their browsing history to serve ads make an effort to achieve some anonymity on the Web. Users are deleting cookies more often than they were a year ago, with 48 percent saying they delete browser cookies at least once a week, an increase from 42 percent in 2008, according to the TRUSTe survey. While three-quarters of consumers say they know how to protect their personal information online, 39 percent say they don’t take steps to protect their data. While behavioral targeting isn’t a growing issue for consumers, protecting their privacy is — and companies are beginning to pay attention. Microsoft’s new IE8 features follow a warning to Internet browser makers from the Federal Trade Commission to self-regulate privacy issues or face regulation. Microsoft came under fire for its Passport feature as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and 14 other groups asked the FTC in 2001 to force a revision of the security standard on Passport. The groups alleged Microsoft violated the law by linking Windows XP with requests to sign up for Passport and misleading users to believe that Passport protected privacy when it instead tracked, profiled and monitored users.