W3C: Microsoft anti-tracking idea worth exploring

Feature in IE 9 Release Candidate that helps users protect personal info on Web is accepted as proposal by W3C, opening debate on whether it should become a Web standard.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The World Wide Web Consortium has approved and published a new browser privacy feature from Microsoft, according to a new IE blog post, opening up for discussion and debate whether the feature should become a Web standard.

Found in the recent release candidate of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft's new Tracking Protection Lists offer IE users a type of "do not track" feature to help them block advertisers and Web sites from tracking and capturing certain data. The feature works via lists of Web site domains that are downloaded to the browser. If a domain name is on the list, the browser will "call" that site only if the user visits it directly, thereby controlling the information that can be collected by third-party sites.

Responsible for defining Web standards, including those for the nascent HTML5, the W3C has of late been turning its attention to the area of online privacy and sees Microsoft's proposal as "both timely and well-aligned" with its own goals and priorities.

With online privacy such a hot-button issue, other parties have naturally been getting into the act as well.

The Federal Trade Commission has been calling for a "do not track" option for browser users. Google recently added a new extension to Chrome to help people opt out of online ads, while Mozilla has implemented a type of blocking feature in its latest beta build of Firefox 4.

Though such "do not track" features offer clear benefits to consumers and Internet users, online advertisers and other third parties have naturally expressed some concerns. As such, the W3C will open the floor for a variety of different players to chime in on Microsoft's proposed solution.

"We expect to engage a broad set of stakeholders, including implementers from the mobile and desktop space; large and small content delivery providers; advertisement networks; search engines; policy and privacy experts; experts in consumer protection; and developers and operators of Services on the Web that make use of consumer tracking," the consortium said.

Moving forward, the W3C added that it will host a workshop at Princeton University on April 28 and 29 to determine the level of support for the proposed feature, with an official announcement expected in early March.