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8/22/2008
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Microsoft Readies 'InPrivate' And 'Cleartracks' Internet Privacy Tools

Trademark applications show that the features are designed to let users conceal their movements on the Web.

Microsoft has applied for trademarks on two Internet privacy tools that could be included in the forthcoming Internet Explorer 8 Web browser, according to U.S. patent office records.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show that Microsoft applied to trademark the name Cleartracks on July 30. The term, according to the application, 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."

The application was filed on behalf of Microsoft by Seattle-based trademark attorney William Ferron, records show.

Also on July 30, Microsoft applied to trademark the term InPrivate. The application says InPrivate 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."

The second application was also filed by Ferron on behalf of Microsoft.

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.

Explorer 8 is expected to be available sometime this year. It's possible the company is planning to add InPrivate and Cleartracks to the browser, though Microsoft has not confirmed this. The features could, in effect, give users a privacy mode that would allow them to surf the Web without leaving an electronic wake for others to find.

Internet Explorer 8 is currently undergoing beta testing.

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