Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has been promoting its “Tracking Protection Lists” in the new version of Internet Explorer as the best route for users to protect their online privacy right away-and that hasn’t changed. But the company will be including a Do Not Track header as a “secondary mechanism” in IE9, according to a blog post by the Microsoft in charge of IE9, Dean Hachamovitch. The latest move shows that Microsoft is open to both technological and regulatory fixes for privacy. With both Mozilla and Microsoft now supporting an HTTP header, Google’s response to online privacy concerns appears comparatively weak-while Apple’s response has been nonexistent.
The change of heart came in just the last few weeks; it was just Feb. 25 when a Microsoft spokesman confirmed to me that despite the fact that it was making Do Not Track part of an HTML5 proposal it was sending in, it wasn’t going to offer the feature in IE9.
The only privacy feature that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has offered is a “keep my opt outs” extension for Chrome. That’s a pretty poor option, considering that the mainstay of online privacy concerns isn’t geared towards users sophisticated enough to use browser extensions at all. It’s also nothing more than a small piece of software that extends the time frame on “opt outs,” which are a somewhat inefficient system of avoiding tracking in any case.
And Apple? (NSDQ: AAPL) The company has been absent from the online privacy debate altogether. Not only has it not said a word in the public discussion about how to help users control their privacy online, but when it came time to submit comments on the FTC’s privacy report, Apple was by far the most notable absence. Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Zynga, and other big web companies all offered their thoughts on the proposal. Even for a company that has long eschewed public statements that aren’t tightly-controlled love-fests, Apple’s silence was notable.