Unlike Apple, Microsoft quashed efforts to boost users’ online privacy in Internet Explorer

“The online habits of most people who use the world’s dominant Web browser are an open book to advertisers,” Nick Wingfield reports for The Wall Street Journal. “That wasn’t the plan at first.”

“In early 2008, Microsoft Corp.’s product planners for the Internet Explorer 8.0 browser intended to give users a simple, effective way to avoid being tracked online,” Wingfield reports. “They wanted to design the software to automatically thwart common tracking tools, unless a user deliberately switched to settings affording less privacy.”

“That triggered heated debate inside Microsoft,” Wingfield reports. “As the leading maker of Web browsers, the gateway software to the Internet, Microsoft must balance conflicting interests: helping people surf the Web with its browser to keep their mouse clicks private, and helping advertisers who want to see those clicks.”

“In the end, the product planners lost a key part of the debate,” Wingfield reports. “The winners: executives who argued that giving automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Microsoft to profit from selling online ads. Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software.”

Wingfield reports, “All the latest Web browsers, including Internet Explorer, let consumers turn on a feature that prevents third-party browser cookies from being installed on their computers. But those settings aren’t always easy to find. Only one major browser, Apple’s Safari, is preset to block all third-party cookies, in the interest of user privacy.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]


  1. No, what it says is that to compete with Google ads, et al., which come from Internet searches, it makes sense to reduce ad opportunities for competitors by making it harder for users to encounter these ads (hence, part of the reason for no Flash and the new Reader button in Safari). At the very least it does not hurt Apple’s business model to do so.

    Jobs argued that there is more money to be made inside of iOS apps, where, he maintains, more and more people are initiating searches instead of through web browser searches. IAds are not hurt by Safari’s ad reduction features.

    What will be interesting to watch is whether there is any conflict between iAds and user privacy. Do users opt in to iAd tracking?

  2. Over the years some “folk wisdom” has arisen in the IT world that:

    Open = Good
    Closed = Bad

    While that “wisdom” can be correctly proven for a great many things, it is by no means universally true. Meanwhile a corollary arose:

    PC/Windows = Open
    Apple/Mac = Closed

    This too, at one time could be proven much more easily than it can now, at least with regard to Macintosh and OS X.

    The point is, while these beliefs are still deeply held, they no longer bear themselves out as solidly in current facts. Apple, despite their past, now vigorously embraces many open standards, and in fact has been instrumental in embracing and championing some despite the market’s initial resistance.

    Having said that, Apple clearly wishes to stay in control of many products and services they offer. The iPhone SDK and the curated App Store a just two of many. Critics often use these as examples of how “closed” (bad) this is, but it’s really hard to argue with the success of these products and services for all three stakeholders: Consumers, Developers, and Apple shareholders.

    This article illustrates one example of how a “walled garden” approach, despite it being “closed”, is actually “better” for all involved.

  3. @Digital Mercenary

    “Flash is still alive if not well in Safari.”

    Well, that’s right. That’s why the Reader button is there and not in the iPad Safari (not yet, at least), to help cut down the “clutter” (of mostly Flash ads). And I’m not quite saying this is all part of a conspiracy to strangle Google ad revenue under the “pretense” of privacy—on the desktop they don’t have the market share; however, unlike say Firefox who has a lucrative deal with Google to provide it income to subsidize its free distribution and therefore is compromised, Apple can afford greater privacy measures (especially if it is in line with, synergistic with, iAd promotion).

  4. “They ended up with something pretty excellent,” says Mr. Rothenberg of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

    “Pretty excellent” for both of them, not so “excellent” for users being tracked.

    And worse: Even if you turn off third party cookies, when you exit and enter again, it is again “on”, so every time you enter IE you have to turn it off. That is not “excellent” for me. It is lack of respect for me.

    This is another reason to use a Mac®

    Shit happens, sometimes®

  5. So, MS decided it wanted to track users via IE… and this is news because… of what??? Many tech-literate ppl knew that they (MS) whould do this someday… which is why we switched to another (more secure) browser… suck that Ballmer.

  6. As I posted at one of the articles about this farce:

    Marketing Morons At Work

    “Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software.”

    Therefore, yet again, the Marketing Morons have managed to screw up something else. By all means treat the customer as a source of cash and nothing more.

    Then consider the fact that Microsoft is currently run by a Marketing Moron, Steve Ballmer. This is how companies die.

    A Marketing Maven treats the customer with respect. They know the customer pays the bills and keeps the company running and dictates what is good product and what is bad. The customer runs the show.

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