Microsoft has confirmed that it will add several new privacy features to its forthcoming Internet Explorer 8 browser that will allow users to cover their digital tracks while surfing the Web.
"Users should be in control of their information. That's at the core of privacy," wrote IE 8 program manager Andy Zeigler in a blog post Monday. Ziegler used the post to confirm that IE 8 will include four new privacy features when it ships later this year.
InPrivate Browsing will let users control whether IE 8 saves their browsing history, cookies, and other Internet data. InPrivate Blocking will inform users about sites that can track their browsing history, and will allow them to block such activity. InPrivate Subscriptions will let users choose which Web sites to subscribe to or block.
A fourth feature, Delete Browsing History, gives users control over their browsing history after visiting a Web site.
"Privacy has two aspects: disclosure and choice," wrote Zeigler. "Disclosure means informing users in plain language about the data collected about them and how it's used. Choice means putting users in control of their data and giving them tools to protect it."
Microsoft this summer tipped its hand on the features by applying for a trademark on the term InPrivate. The company's July 30 trademark application said the term refers to "computer programs for disabling the history of file caching features of a Web browser, and computer software for notifying a user of a Web browser when others are tracking Web use and for controlling the information others can access about such use."
Microsoft also applied for a trademark on the term Cleartracks, which it says refers to "computer programs for accessing and using the Internet and the World Wide Web, and computer programs for deleting search history after accessing Web sites," according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records.
The description is similar to that for IE 8's now-confirmed Delete Browsing History feature.
Many current Web browsers, including Explorer 7, leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that can reveal a user's path across the Web. In the past, such information has been used by law enforcement officials investigating suspected criminal behavior, by employers keeping tabs on workers' browsing habits, and even by jealous spouses who suspect their partners of cheating or frequenting porn sites. IE 8's new feature could make it more difficult for interested parties to track such behavior.
Explorer 8 is expected to be available sometime this year. It's currently in beta testing.