Microsoft planning IE privacy mode

Worried about leaving tracks as you browse the Web? A privacy mode is on the agenda for Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

For many, privacy on the Web is a concern. And for Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, privacy is a feature.

In a meeting with reporters this week, Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's search, portal and advertising platform group, said the company's browser will come with a private browsing mode. And Long Zheng of the istartedsomething blog surfaced two telling Microsoft trademarks that appear related: Cleartracks and Inprivate.

Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's search, portal and advertising platform group
Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's search, portal and advertising platform group Stephen Shankland/CNET News

Both trademarks are involved with Web browsers, according to the applications with a July 30 filing date. The Cleartracks trademark involves "computer programs for deleting search history after accessing Web sites," according to the Microsoft filing. And the Inprivate trademark involves "computer programs for disabling the history and file caching features of a Web browser; and computer software for notifying a user of a Web browser when others are tracking Web use and for controlling the information others can access about such use."

One obvious use case for privacy browsing modes is surfing the Net for pornographic materials without leaving traces, but other, less unseemly use cases also exist. "Users may wish to begin a private browsing session to research a medical condition, or plan a surprise vacation or birthday party for a loved one," according to Mozilla's discussion of a private browsing feature.

Microsoft didn't comment on the applications beyond a brief statement, "We are investing in privacy in IE8."

And in a June blog posting, Microsoft said privacy is one of the major components of the "trustworthy browsing" element of Internet Explorer 8. "The larger challenge here is notifying users clearly about what sites they're disclosing information to and enabling them to control that disclosure if they choose," the company said. Microsoft said privacy means "the user is in control of what information the browser makes available to Web sites."

Internet Explorer is the dominant Web browser, and version 8 is in beta testing now and due in final form later this year.

Programmers have envisioned a private browsing mode for Mozilla's Firefox browser but so far haven't put the privacy feature into the open-source browser. Apple's Safari has a private browsing mode.