When you hit a web page you send lots of requests to lots of places to get all the content for the page be it images, scripts embedded videos or adverts. When that request happens the people who you’re requesting that stuff from also get to learn what you’re viewing when you send the request…that’s how you get adverts specific to what you’re looking at (or have looked at) and sometimes specific to your location. Being a tech savvy TechNet reader you probably know that, but do the users in your organisation?
It’s a guess but some possible do, most probably don’t. Why would it matter that someone serves up an advert to someone in your organisation based on what they’re looking at? Well generally it wouldn’t but they also get information about your browsing habits and (if one were to don a conspiracy theorists hat) one might say that it was possible to gain intelligence about what your company were considering doing. For example if a job advert site found that lots of your employees were browsing for new roles a week before you announced your profit and loss would that or could that be used to imply financial uncertainty at your company and therefore affect the stock price? It’s a way out there but it could happen.
Internet Explorer 9 will have features to help you manage this type of risk and a couple of days ago we announced something new, Tracking Protection. In essence this means that you can define a list of sites that you only want to send information to if you EXPLICITY visit them (or you can subscribe to a list of sites so you don’t have to micromanage it). By explicitly visit I mean if you click a link to a site or if you type the site into the address bar. Practically this will result in you seeing less advertising and lower the risk of phishing attacks or other types of attacks that haven’t even been thought of yet occurring.
It’s another example of the exceptionally high level of innovation in the IE team that the moment. We had something similar in IE 8 with InPrivate Filtering which was dynamic and based on heuristics (or learned behaviour) but, whilst it’s pretty darn good, the end user experience can be unpredictable and you couldn’t control it. Tracking Protection will bring the ability to subscribe to multiple RSS based tracking filter lists and as a result nothing stops you from defining a corporate one and layering it over a public one.