Internet Explorer 10 new privacy settings welcomed

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Microsoft has been applauded by privacy campaigners for making end users opt in to have their online activities tracked by advertisers in the next version of the Internet Explorer browser.

The software giant confirmed this week that Internet Explorer 10 will come with a default Do Not Track (DNT) setting to prevent advertisers and websites snooping on users' online activities.

Do Not Track for Internet Explorer users will become pervasive

Windows 8 users can switch off DNT when they set up their device for the first time by using the Customise Settings option. However, those that go down the Express Settings route will automatically get DNT.

In a blog post, Brendan Lynch, chief privacy officer at Microsoft, said DNT was part of the company's commitment to protecting user privacy.

"We believe consumers should have more control over how data about their online behavior is tracked, shared, and used," he said.

In a statement to IT Pro, Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, welcomed the move.

"There is a clear demand for privacy-enhancing technology and it's a sign of how that demand has grown that a company the size of Microsoft has put privacy at the heart of a key product," he said.

However, there is a danger that third parties may try to circumnavigate the setting because of how valuable tracking data is, he warned.

"It is essential that regulators and software developers are aware to the pressure on other companies to circumvent these privacy protections and take robust action to deter any unauthorised tracking," he added.

Alexander Hanff, chief executive of Think Privacy, told IT Pro web browsers that do not have DNT switched on as a default option could find themselves falling foul of the law.

"EU law under 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive requires explicit consent before tracking cookies can be used [and] the Article 29 Working Party have already issued an opinion that browser settings for DNT [that] are disabled by default are not sufficient to satisfy EU regulations," he said.

"So this move by Microsoft protects consumers and helps to bring compliance with EU regulations."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.