Microsoft: we didn’t hobble IE8’s privacy

Microsoft has hit back at criticism that its browser could have offered better privacy tools if not for executive pressure.

Microsoft: we didn't hobble IE8's privacy

While in the development stages, Internet Explorer 8 featured an easy way to block third-party tracking, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Developers wanted the system to be switched on by default to give users the most privacy, but the report claims executives successfully argued that tracking was necessary for advertising – and Microsoft’s bottom line.

Distinguishing between a tracking technology and a useful piece of web content is not obvious

Microsoft said that’s not the case, arguing that there’s no single way to guarantee users’ privacy online. “Because some of the technologies that can be used for tracking are also essential today for basic functionality, there is no ‘Just give me perfect privacy’ feature,” noted Internet Explorer general manager Dean Hachamovitch in a Microsoft blog post.

“Distinguishing between a tracking technology (a beacon) and a useful piece of web content (a stock chart used as a beacon) is not obvious,” he added.

He noted that even when using IE8’s InPrivate Browsing tool, the browser still tracks where users go online in order for the back button to work – but deletes the data after the window is closed. The tool also allows cookies to work, so user logins and shopping carts continue to function. “Ultimately, people want the web to work and privacy protection,” he said.

He advised anyone concerned about privacy to browse use the InPrivate Filtering mode, which needs to be switched on in the Safety menu each time the browser is opened.

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