Much has been made of the new security features in Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. As users and testers bang on the beta version of the browser, Microsoft appears to have gotten a lot right when it comes to privacy.
In the Beta 2 version of Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft has added a number of features to help it compete with rival browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox and Safari from Apple. Two of the most discussed features in IE 8 are InPrivate Browsing and InPrivate Blocking, the former being a feature that allows users to hide their browsing history. The latter is meant to prevent the sharing of information between Web sites a user visits and third-party sites.
It is in the area of privacy where IE 8 has generated the most buzz, with comments in the blogosphere ranging from excitement from IE fans to criticism by proponents of other browsers. One thing seems certain however-many users are ready for additional privacy safeguards.
"There is no need to make it easy for outsiders to gain intelligence by looking at browser data-this is a neat concept," said Eric Ogren, an analyst with The Ogren Group. "I hope they make it tunable-looks like 10 sites need to track you before IPB kicks in. [That number] should be settable. It would be nice if it links into some sort of reputation-based system to help give blocking suggestions."
Still, while the privacy features may be welcomed by Web surfers wary of being tracked, Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley predicted Internet firms that analyze traffic on Web sites to gather information about the most popular pages will likely look for ways to subvert the technology.
"We'll have to wait until IE 8 ships before we can truly see how well Microsoft has implemented these privacy features, some of which are already present in alternative browsers like Apple's Safari," Cluley said. Still, he added, "It's clear that there will be people keen to use them."
In a blog post, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team, wrote that users are often unaware of how much information about their Web activity is collected by third-party sites.
"Web privacy involves more than just blocking cookies," Hachamovitch wrote. "Enabling users to be in control starts with making users aware of the issues."