Microsoft Offers Details on Privacy Features in IE8

New browser will allow user to better control access to surfing history, cookies

Microsoft this week is offering details on new capabilities that will be offered in Internet Explorer 8 to help protect users' privacy as they surf on the Web.

In a post about the browser's privacy enhancements on Microsoft's IE blog, program manager Andy Zeigler describes four new features in IE8, collectively named "InPrivate," that will help users keep others from tracking their surfing behavior.

InPrivate Browsing lets users control whether or not IE saves their browsing history, cookies, and other data. "If you are using a shared PC, a borrowed laptop from a friend, or a public PC, sometimes you don’t want other people to know where you’ve been on the Web," Zeigler writes. "InPrivate Browsing makes that 'over the shoulder' privacy easy by not storing history, cookies, temporary Internet files, or other data."

Microsoft is also adding new features to its "Delete Browsing History" function that will allow users to pick and choose which site cookies to store via the "Favorites" list, the blog says. This feature will enable users to delete history and cookies from their local devices without forcing their favorite sites to "forget" stored passwords and preferences, it states.

In addition to protecting users' browsing histories from local users, InPrivate will help IE8 customers protect themselves from sites that collect and analyze browsing data, Zeigler says.

"InPrivate Blocking is a feature designed to help give you information about third-party content that has a line of sight into your Web browsing, and gives you a choice about what information you share with these sites," the blog says.

InPrivate Blocking can automatically block sites that track users' activity across 10 sites or more. Users can also manually choose items to block or allow, or obtain information about the third-party content directly from the site by clicking the “More information from this website” link.

Users can augment InPrivate Blocking with InPrivate Subscriptions, the blog states. "Some users want to protect their privacy, but don’t want to make granular decisions about content to block or allow," it says. "Users can delegate these decisions to publishers of InPrivate Subscriptions. Users can subscribe to a list the same way they add an Accelerator, Web Slice, or search provider to IE: by clicking a link on a Web page and confirming that they want this functionality."

Under the covers, InPrivate Subscriptions are simply RSS feeds of Regular Expressions that specify sub-downloads to block or allow. "Anyone can publish an InPrivate Subscription on their Website, just as they can offer an Accelerator or Web Slice," Zeigler writes.

The new features will be a part of IE8 Beta 2, which will be available "soon," Zeigler states. The company has not given a date for its release.

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