Microsoft strikes at marketing dreams, shows users good side

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Microsoft’s IE 9 blog has an article about new tracking control, and some preliminary information on how it will be implemented (primarily with “allow” and “deny” regular expressions). And this gives me a hope that at least this department is interested in helping users first, and making money later.

Here are my thoughts on “do not track” aspects of IE9:
1. Any kind of “easy opt-in/out” mechanisms have to be sufficiently easy to use. And it is hard from the UI perspective . If user will get asked about every single site that is referenced, it will be a nightmare. For example msn.com has 12 different domains referenced on the homepage (though only 3 top-level domains, in comparison to, say, 9 on excite.com ). Even if user is asked just about top level domains, interactivity should go out the window.

2. Marketing departments will be panicked. An easy way for users to suddenly turn a bit more anonymous? It’s a disaster! How will they push unneeded stuff to those users now? So, if the IE 9 solution will be effective, I’ll expect a big fight with possible push from sales/marketing departments to make it not that easy. Hopefully marketing will loose. There’s no reason to track people unless people are okay with it and are given a choice.

3. I wonder if IE9 will provide “generic headers cloaking” – where they will strip out all unnecessary information from request headers. All those plugins, config options, screen resolution, fonts, browser version… See Panopticlick diagnostic page that will tell you how unique your browser is. And while marketing companies will be sad to let completely unique IDs and forego supercookies (Evercookie demo shows how many ways there are to track you), they can be okay with tracking you via other means.

4. In many cases tracking will be mandatory. For example, if your bank decides to partner with a certain service for online systems, you’d be hard pressed to craft such an “exclusion” policy that would keep your online banking working yet disable that provider from tracking you everywhere else.

I wish IE9 developers all the best. Even partial solution to tracking will improve user’s privacy and nudge other browsers to include similar capabilities into their core (Firefox has add-ons already)

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