Mozilla is thinking about adding new privacy features that would make it harder for advertisers to track users as they travel the Web, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The proposal would have the browser broadcast a “do not track” message, and would require cooperation from tracking companies. In other words, it’s doomed. (Without legislation in place, there’s no way ad networks and other companies who rely on user tracking for revenue are going to turn it off on request.)
Ironically, there’s already a browser that offers this kind of privacy protection, and it requires no cooperation from ad tracking companies. It’s the current version of Internet Explorer, which is the most used browser on the Web with 32% market share, according to Net Applications.
IE8 has a little known feature called InPrivate Filtering (under the “Safety” menu) that keeps a list of all the third-party domains that deliver content as you surf the Web. In other words, if you’re visiting a news site and an ad network delivers a small piece of content–say an image–from its own domain, InPrivate Filtering will keep track of that. If the same ad network’s domain shows up on a certain number of other sites, then IE8 will automatically block all further content from that ad network’s domain, for as long as you have InPrivate Filtering turned on. (The default number is 10, but it can be set as low as 3. You access by going to “InPrivate Filtering Settings.”) There are other more sophisticated methods to block and track this kind of content as well–more details about the feature and how to use it are available on the IE team’s blog Microsoft’s MSDN site.
In other words, when you’re using InPrivate Filtering, ad networks will have a harder time tracking you as you move from site to site.
But there’s a trick: you have to turn it on. Manually. Every time.
When the IE team was originally designing IE8, InPrivate Filtering was simply a sub-feature of InPrivate, which creates a temporary private browsing session after which all cookies, cached content, history, and other information is erased. InPrivate is similar to features already found in Firefox and Safari, and was going to be prominently advertised and easy to find.
But as the Wall Street Journal reported, other executives within Microsoft freaked out about the potential loss in advertising revenue. Because the free IE earns no direct revenue for Microsoft, the advertising teams eventually won, and the filtering feature was split out and buried.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.