Google Privacy Issues Let Microsoft Tout IE9's Safeguards

Microsoft is taking advantage of all the hullabaloo surrounding Google’s privacy policy changes, by buying ads last week in major newspapers that called out how its products and practices are different than Google’s and touting its Internet Explorer 9 and Bing products in company blogs.

Even though IE9 has had a Tracking Protection feature for a while, it's prime time for Microsoft to remind users about it. And Bing, the company points out, has undergone many changes that people may not be familiar with.

Tracking Protection in IE9 works by blocking the ability of companies to track what you’re doing online -- a widespread practice that many people don’t even know is going on.

The Wall Street Journal last year conducted a thorough investigation into the subject and found that the top 50 U.S. websites installed an average of 64 pieces of tracking technology onto visitors’ computers. The newspaper also uncovered new tools that scan what people are doing on a Web page, and even cull data such as location, income, shopping interests, and medical conditions. The worst part: Some of those tracking tools recreate themselves even after you delete them.

If that -- or how Google will be sharing your data across its products -- bothers you, Tracking Protection in IE9 is worth evaluating.

How to Test IE9's Tracking Protection

To get it, you need to first download IE9. After restarting your computer, open Explorer and click on “Get more Add-ons” in the favorites bar at the top of the page. Once you’re at the gallery, click on “Tracking Protection Lists” at the top of the page. From there you can choose from several lists that have been created by non-Microsoft entities that work by preventing websites from automatically sending details about your visits to other content providers.

When you use one of these lists with IE9, Microsoft will send a Do Not Track signal to the websites you visit and to associated third party websites if they haven’t been blocked by your Tracking Protection List. It’s not 100 percent effective, though. Microsoft points out that some websites may continue to engage in activities you might view as tracking even though you tell them not to.

To be fair, Google says it offers its users plenty of ways to retain their privacy, including tools that let you opt out of Wi-Fi tracking and targeted ads as well as its “Me on the Web” service that will notify you when your personal data appears on the web and let you removed unwanted content.

In addition to spotlighting Tracking Protection, Microsoft also is pushing hard to get people using its Bing search engine and on February 3 outlined in its Bing search blog several of the features people might not know about such as the FanSnap event ticketing comparison tool which you could use, for example, to score Super Bowl tickets.

Interesting features aside, results are what matter most when you use a search engine. How Google is so thoroughly messing with its core product by adding Google+ posts into search results might be what really drives more people over to Bing.

One thing is certain, competition between Microsoft and Google has gotten hot and heavy. Regardless of which one comes out on top, users stand to gain as both companies try to out-innovate each other.

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