The Wall Street Journal has a story detailing how Microsoft developers had worked out a plan to add serious privacy capabilities to Internet Explorer 8, which would specifically be designed to try to block tracking efforts by advertisers. The default would recognize if a third-party service/cookie/script appeared on more than 10 visited websites and would then assume that was a tracking device of sorts. The idea was to make this the default and make it easy for users to control their privacy settings. However, when word filtered over to the side of Microsoft's business that sold advertising, folks there went ballistic and forced the IE team to change its plans
Executives in Microsoft's new ad business were upset when the designers of Internet Explorer hatched the plan to block tracking activity, say people involved in the debate. At a meeting in the spring of 2008, Brian McAndrews, a Microsoft senior vice president who had been chief executive of aQuantive before Microsoft acquired it, complained to the browser planners. Their privacy plan, he argued, would disrupt the selling of Web ads by Microsoft and other companies, these people say.
The folks on the other side realized that people were quickly moving away from IE, and thought (probably correctly) that the way to attract users was to actually (what an idea!) fight for the users and what they wanted
, such as by implementing strong privacy tools. After fighting it out back and forth in a series of meetings, the advertising folks won... and Internet Explorer will continue to lose users. Admittedly, other browsers don't offer such privacy features standard either -- and Google clearly has the same conflict of interest to deal with. However, these days, if you are concerned about privacy, using Firefox with NoScript, AdBlocker and various other privacy protection extensions can certainly help.