IE9 follows Firefox 4's lead on 'Do Not Track'

Microsoft quietly adds support for HTTP header concept to IE9

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On Tuesday, a Microsoft spokesman said she couldn't provide additional information about the company's decision to support the HTTP header, instead referring Computerworld to Hachamovitch's Monday blog. Hachamovitch did not specifically explain Microsoft's reasoning in that post.

For its part, earlier this month Mozilla submitted its proposed Do Not Track HTTP Header to the Internet Engineering Task Force, another group that promotes Web standards. Mozilla jointly submitted its proposal with the Stanford team headed by Mayer.

Mozilla announced its Do Not Track support in late January, and added it to a beta of Firefox 4 several weeks later. Firefox 4 is slated to ship in final form later this month.

Firefox 4 has the HTTP header feature disabled by default. To turn it on, users must go to Preferences/Advanced, and check the "Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked" box. IE9 automatically switches on its Do Not Track HTTP header transmission as soon as the user subscribes to a Tracking Protection list.

Brookman said it was far from clear which Do Not Track technology would end up being adopted by advertisers and sites in the face of increased government pressure.

"This has sat dormant for three years, but since 2010, there's been a fury about [increased privacy]," he said. "Everyone is trying to figure this out. But I like the idea of Microsoft iterating ideas very quickly."

Because there are more questions than answers at the moment, Brookman hesitated to name a leader among the different browsers. "We don't have a scorecard yet," Brookman said of the in-flux situation.

Instead, the important thing is to keep privacy on the front burner.

"Let's get the critical support [Do Not Track] needs, enough ad networks to support it, a critical mass, and then work out what it means as we go along," Brookman said.

IE9 can be downloaded from Microsoft's site; the release candidate of Firefox 4 is available from Mozilla.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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