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Privacy is top of mind for many people this week, as we get ready to celebrate Data Privacy Day on January 28. Over the next few days, you will hear quite a bit from Microsoft on this topic since we, as a company, continue to be very committed to ensuring the safety and privacy of our customers.
Given the timeliness of this subject, it is not surprising then that data protection and privacy are key themes at the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference taking place right now in Munich. For those not familiar with DLD, it is a truly unique event that connects business, creative, and social leaders for crossover conversation and inspiration on areas ranging from innovation to digital media to culture to science. The presenters and attendees are amazingly diverse; Vice President of the European Commission Viviane Reding, legendary physicist Freeman Dyson, and Yoko Ono are among the headliners.
Our own Dean Hachamovitch had the privilege of speaking at this year’s event, where he explored the complexity of online privacy – particularly in light of emerging trends such as the convergence of Web sites and applications – and provided a progress report on the state of online privacy protections.
As Dean highlighted in his presentation, privacy is a worldwide conversation that, at the same time, involves intensely local expectations and sensibilities. The key to progress is enabling local groups that understand local privacy concerns to engage and have an impact. One of the ways that Microsoft is helping in this regard is through a technology that ships with Internet Explorer 9 called Tracking Protection.
Tracking Protection is critical since of all the potential privacy issues, being tracked across sites as you browse is the one that comes up most consistently. Tracking Protection actually blocks the information that some sites can use to track you, relying on the information in Tracking Protection Lists. It enforces specific user preferences. You can try it out here on the IE Test Drive site, with an example of “tracking pixels” or “web beacons.”
Now, many people have asked how Tracking Protection and “Do Not Track” functionality are related. They are complimentary. Do Not Track today is an honor system. A consumer hopes that sites honor his or her request to not be tracked. What sites must do to honor that request or not, is still under discussion, as is who monitors and enforces that, and how. Some people have been clear that that’s not enough, which is why we continue to focus heavily on advancing Tracking Protection.
Tracking Protection is now a standard under development at the W3C and the momentum we have seen over the last year has been extremely encouraging. When we first released IE9, five tracking protection lists were available. Now, nine months later, there are over twenty lists worldwide from six different groups. For example, the EasyList project is an open community effort to help filter unwanted content. It is available as a Tracking Protection List here. They have had over 250,000 subscriptions to their list. You can find other lists at www.iegallery.com.
Industry Momentum for Tracking Protection
This week two leading privacy advocates – Simon Davies and Alexander Hanff of Privacy International – are releasing three new Tracking Protection Lists for Europe, including one focused on protecting children. These TPLs as well as a variety of helpful information on privacy will be available at http://privacyonline.org.uk/. These lists and the status of TPLs in general will be discussed in more detail during this week’s Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference in Brussels. [Full disclosure: Microsoft provided these researchers a grant, as noted on their site.]
Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, said, “Tracking Protection has huge potential and is a powerful tool for enhancing consumer privacy, but to build consumer trust it needs serious browser-level commitment. Alex and I were delighted when Microsoft decided to heavily invest in the technology since it has empowered independent parties like us to author Tracking Protections Lists knowing that the broader community will be able to take advantage of verifiable tracking protection from organizations they trust. Furthermore, we’ve also customized a copy of Internet Explorer 9 to make it easier for others to find and use our Tracking Protection Lists.”
Privacy continues to be an important aspect of moving the web forward. Our approach to helping consumers protect themselves from tracking is practical, much like our work to provide demonstrable gains in performance (see IETestDrive.com), standards support (see IE Test Center), and malware protection (looking at the spike in blocks).
We’re excited to see the progress and partnership with Web standards bodies and many other organizations deliver practical, effective, and standardized ways to help people stay in control of their information.
Can you trust IE InPrivate browsing to prevent you from being tracked?
With the following website you can test how trackable your browser is using the finger print method.
Here is my results for Firefox with No Script and Ad Blocker add on's enabled...
"Within our dataset of several million visitors, only one in 26,833 browsers have the same fingerprint as yours."
Here are my results using IE8 with inPrivate browsing turned on...
"Within our dataset of several million visitors, only one in 965,991 browsers have the same fingerprint as yours."
As you can see I get much better results with Firefox. Can someone test IE9 with this website? I would be interested to see the results.
I generally use FF8, Comodo Dragon and Opera 11.60. But I did run the test with IE9 for you. Here are my results:
Within our dataset of several million visitors, only one in 483,005 browsers have the same fingerprint as yours.
Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys 18.88 bits of identifying information.
Tommy, I ran the test on IE9 and it said this:
"Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 1,932,112 tested so far."
Just to give you an idea of how different test results are.
With a mix of TPLs in IE, that Panopticlick sites tells me "Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 1,939,113 tested so far" so I'd say yes ;-)
The more unique your browser fingerprint is, the easier you can be tracked. I would say the the higher the number is the worse it is. if there are 6 billion internet users, and your browser has an unique fingerprint (so you are 1 in 6 billion) you can be tracked 100%.
I would say that IE9 with a higher uniqueness of the fingerprint performs less in terms of privacy
If you try to start a private conversation on WindowsTeamBlog in IE9 with IE9 doc and browser mode, it doesn't let you post the message and throw the script error:
SCRIPT438: Object doesn't support property or method 'duplicate'
tiny_mce.js, line 1 character 56443
Same goes when you try to press the reply button in the private conversation. IE8 mode works fine though...
Please remedy it!