/ Technology

Anti-tracking on by default in Internet Explorer – good news?

In a move likely to please privacy advocates and anger online marketers in equal measure, Microsoft has confirmed that ‘Do Not Track’ will be the default setting for Internet Explorer 10 users.

While some companies will seemingly go to any lengths to exploit personal information for profit, it seems that others are starting to take notice of what we’ve been saying all along here at Which? – that people value their privacy and will reward companies who respect it.

It’s in this light that we’re excited by Microsoft’s recent announcement that Do Not Track will be installed as the default option for users of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10).

This means that by default you won’t be tracked across the internet by unknown third parties and won’t have adverts served to you based on your past browsing behaviour.

Why this is significant

Lots of companies have been experimenting with anti-tracking tools for some time. Adobe, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft have all developed different technologies aimed at increasing web users’ control of their privacy online.

But until now, if you wanted enhanced privacy you’d have to locate and activate these tools yourself, and using them can be quite daunting for the uninitiated. What’s significant about Microsoft’s latest news is that when it launches Windows 8, this technology will be turned ‘on’ as the default setting in IE10, so you won’t even have to think about it.

This should mean that our privacy is respected automatically – even if we’re not sufficiently aware of concepts such as tracking and online behavioural advertising to know how to protect ourselves.

And if you like having ads based on your interests or taking advantage of social network sharing buttons, you can change the default settings with a couple of clicks.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s move is likely to be unpopular with online marketers. If IE10 users have to specifically opt-in to tracking and online behavioural advertising, there will probably be a significant reduction in the number of users who can be served targeted ads.

A cautionary note

It’s worth noting that our past tests of different anti-tracking technologies identified some worrying issues, with a particular flaw discovered in IE9’s anti-tracking tool. Still, Microsoft’s latest move is certainly a step in the right direction for protecting privacy, and we look forward to testing it out when it’s released.

So, with so many internet browsers competing for your download, would IE10’s default anti-tracking tool tempt you away from Chrome and Firefox?

Comments
Member

I didn’t even know what Anti-Tracking was until I read this, and then researched it a bit further.
In my IE9 browser, it wasn’t turned on, and I certainly didn’t turn it off. I’ve turned it on now, and I now I know what it does, I’ll want to keep it turned on for sure. So yes, I welcome this in IE9.

I wonder just how many other hidden gems like this there are in software that the end user doesn’t know about? I don’t think the software companies are very good at telling us about these features.

Member

Some typos in my post there, sorry, but I’m sure you get the point 🙂

Can we not edit our posts somehow?

Member

Not at the moment Rich, sorry about that. Yes, extensions and features like this are often hidden unless you go searching for them, which makes Microsoft’s ‘on by default’ decision a good one.

Member

I would like to see an EU standard on the ways that information is used by browsers. Trying to get Microsoft and Google to comply would then be the challenge.

I’m not worried about Internet Explorer because I am denied this as a user of Apple computers. I would not use it if it was available.

Member

@Wavechange – have you had any concerns using Safari (or whatever browser you have chosen) on the Apple? I’m all Apple too, and I have located all the tools and settings that I can find out about and made sure that they are all set for maximum privacy, but Google still worries me as I am far from convinced that we are allowed to know about all that it does.

Woudl be interesting to hear what other Apple users know / think about this issue.

Member

Safari is my default browser now and I am careful about settings too. Having said that, I must check that my settings have been retained in Safari 6, which arrived with a recent Software Update. I would be grateful for advice too. I avoid using Chrome because I don’t trust Google, which is a shame because it has done so much to advance our use of computers.

What concerns me more is security and privacy on my iPad, where there is no opportunity to play with settings and probably little protection against malware.

Member

One thing you gotta say about Microsoft, they may have never had an original idea of their own, but when they latch on to someone else’s idea they really latch on.

That said I already have so much security software running (Including ‘Do not track’) that some web sites won’t deal with me, so switching to IE isn’t really necessary, but I do applaud the move, and I’m really surprised that one of the other browsers didn’t think of it first.

Member

Perhaps IE10 is capable of stopping demented cats and other animated gifs so that we don’t have to hold down the Esc button.

Member
Anton Koekemoer says:
14 August 2012

Hi Julian,

I do agree – Microsoft is taking a step to the right direction – Just a pity that a lot of users tend to use different browsers – this is sure eventually through the whole SEO (and user tracking) game over on its head. For now – I’ll stick with Chrome and Firefox before seeing the new version of IE.

Member

I would like to see maximum security and privacy settings as the default on all browsers.

For the time being it is well worth all users checking their settings periodically in case they change as a result of browser updates or malware.

I have Safari and Firefox set to avoid tracking on my Macs but this does not appear to be possible on Chrome. That’s one of the reasons I don’t use Chrome.

Member

To be fair Microsoft probably didn’t know about this, but apparently Tor Firefox were first with DNT as default (No, I’ve never heard of them before either), and if you look them up they’ve now gone even further…