Privacy continues to be a big concern for users as they browse the web. The recent FTC report on online privacy called for a means of giving consumers more control over their information, recommending a "Do Not Track" feature to allow users to opt out of the tracking that is used to deliver relevant online ads. Microsoft announced on Tuesday that the next version of the company's browser, Internet Explorer 9, would have Tracking Protection built in.
In a post on the IE Blog, Microsoft demonstrates the Tracking Protection mechanism, which the company claims will meet the requirements laid out in the FTC report. To use the Tracking Protection feature in Internet Explorer 9, users could control which portions of a website could view the information used to build your profile.
As described by Microsoft, the Tracking Protection List would allow users to block specific elements on a page or to eventually be able to download a Tracking Protection List that has been built by another user or third party.
At the root of the issue is the ability of many online advertisers to use online ads to view the web pages you visit over time, which allows them to build a profile of your browsing habits by tracking where you're computer has been. This information can be used to deliver online ads that are relevant to you, but it can also be used for nefarious purposes.
Not everyone is sure that a "Do Not Track" mechanism is the solution to this problem. There are many challenges to successfully implementing a system and in the fast-paced online world, some wonder if legislation or industry wide adoption could be out of date almost as soon as it is put into action.
PC Magazine sees issues with the Internet Explorer "Do Not Track" protection. It says users must take action and make decisions that most are not able to because they, "lack the privacy savvy, tech skill, and drive to devote the time and energy to properly configuring and maintaining these lists."
There's no simple solution to online privacy. The changes made will have a big impact not just on what users see when browsing, but also on companies' ability to offer sites without a monthly fee if advertisers pull out as they lose the ability to target specific demographics.
Online privacy is certainly an area that needs attention in order to protect consumers. But it is also an area that needs a great deal of thought and input. The attempt to deliver simple protection to consumers, such as the Do Not Call Registry does with telemarketing, must be balanced against unnecessarily stifling the growth of e-commerce.
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