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The upcoming version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser will have a new feature. It's the computer equivalent of the do not call list that keeps telemarketers from calling your home.
Privacy advocates praised Microsoft but say the move shouldn't stop the government from pushing for tighter privacy legislation. NPR's Laura Sydell has the story.
LAURA SYDELL: When you are out and about surfing the Web, you're being watched. Millions of websites put a tracking device in your browser called a cookie. That lets them track where you go online and collect information about your interests, say travel to Italy or drugs that fight depression. That information can be sold to advertisers to target ads to you.
The new feature for Internet Explorer, or IE, will let you create a list of websites that you don't want following you around. Dean Hachamovitch is with Microsoft.
Mr. DEAN HACHAMOVITCH (Microsoft): And then as the user browses the Web, IE will refer to this list and either allow or block calls to these third-party websites that are in position to track the consumer.
SYDELL: Microsoft's announcement comes on the heels of last week's Federal Trade Commission report that suggested browser companies give consumers more ways to protect their privacy.
Privacy advocates such as Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy think that Microsoft is throwing a crumb to the FTC.
Mr. JEFF CHESTER (Center for Digital Democracy): Microsoft hopes that by allowing users to have some kind of greater control over who can collect consumer data that Congress won't legislate, and the Federal Trade Commission won't regulate.
SYDELL: And Chester says Microsoft itself collects enormous amounts of information from users of its browsers, online games, email and instant message services.
Yet Microsoft is also getting heat from the advertising industry for going too far. Steve Sullivan of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group, says if a user goes to CNN.com, and its ads come from a blocked, outside website, the consumer won't see any ads. That may sound good to some, but Sullivan says that's how CNN and other sites support their content.
Mr. STEVE SULLIVAN (Interactive Advertising Bureau): It implies to the consumer that opting out of tracking is actually a function of opting out of advertising, but that's not the case. Advertising is part of the economic model of the Internet.
SYDELL: For its part, the FTC praised Microsoft, saying that its technology proves it is possible to give consumers more choice about who follows them online.
Laura Sydell, NPR News
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