Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is putting its support behind another browser privacy feature. The submission the company has made to the World Wide Web Consortium has now been published and includes not only “Tracking Protection” lists — the central privacy feature in the soon-to-be-broadly released Internet Explorer 9 — but also a “Do Not Track” header that has been suggested by the Federal Trade Commission and already embraced by competitor Mozilla.
The Do Not Track header will not be in Internet Explorer 9, a Microsoft spokesperson said. But the company nevertheless included it in its proposal “as an indication that the industry should work together to review and refine this technology.”
At a recent privacy conference in Berkeley, IE9 chief Dean Hachamovitch mentioned that he viewed the Mozilla “do not track” feature, along with his own company’s Tracking Protection lists as privacy measures that were potentially complementary. By submitting both features to the W3C the company has shown it’s willing to both cooperate and compete in the privacy area. In one sense, a do not track header may be the most complete solution for users who don’t want their browsing data to be gathered, but it will only be powerful if websites decide to obey the header. By contrast, Microsoft’s Tracking Protection lists will let users block online advertisers and analytics companies from tracking them, whether websites like it or not.
The header-based solution, implemented in Mozilla’s recently released Firefox 4 beta, simply involves sending a short string of text–the HTTP header–to any website a Firefox user visits expressing the user’s wish not to be tracked. Microsoft’s list-based system actually blocks communication between an IE9 user and websites that are believed to be engaged in tracking.