However, the motives and methods Microsoft is using for this could use a little examination. Is it a complicated process that may pass government muster but be a little too complicated for users to engage, or an alternative to the registry?
The option is not default, and the fact you opt in, as opposed to opt out, could be confusing at first. After all, if tracking on is the default – then an opt in could be misleading.
The Microsoft blog tries to explain the process:
“Today, consumers have very little awareness or control over who can track their online activity. Much has been written about this topic. With the release candidate:
IE9 will offer consumers a new opt-in mechanism (“Tracking Protection”) to identify and block many forms of undesired tracking.
“Tracking Protection Lists” will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they’re online.
We believe that the combination of consumer opt-in, an open platform for publishing of Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs), and the underlying technology mechanism for Tracking Protection offer new options and a good balance between empowering consumers and online industry needs.”
The Tracking Protection List is unclear. Is it a list of sites that can track or one of sites you want to block? How does it work for individual analytics software on sites?
No doubt more details will be forth coming when this is launched.
That the option is an effort to address the FTC Microsoft admits. “Microsoft has been engaged in dialogue with the FTC, the Article 29 Working Party in the EU, and others in the privacy arena for some time, and has long recognized the critical importance of privacy to our customers. Unlike other topics we’ve discussed on this blog, privacy involves additional complexities beyond technology and product engineering and interoperability. For privacy, many other aspects are at least as important for making progress: public policy, the law and its enforcement, and engagement across several other industries. This increased importance applies both in the recent US report as well as in similar efforts in places like the EU.”
Is this an attempt to suggest ‘self-regulation’ over legislation? If the registry is implemented then this would be superfluous as it then becomes the responsibility of website owners to know who can and cannot be tracked.
The main objection against the registry is the difficulty of implementing it – so perhaps this addition to the browser offers the government a different way to allow people to opt out of tracking – make the browsers responsible, after all they are the way people get to websites.