NEW YORK - Microsoft has unveiled increased privacy options for the upcoming version of its popular web browser Internet Explorer 9 including the ability to prevent tracking by third-party websites.
The software giant said that the new feature, "Tracking Protection," is designed to "help consumers be in control of potential online tracking as they move around the web."
"Tracking Protection is the new privacy feature in Internet Explorer 9 designed to help keep third-party websites from tracking your web behaviour," Microsoft said in a press release.
Microsoft said it will be built into a test version of IE9 being released early next year.
The default will be for Tracking Protection to be off, Microsoft said, and IE9 users will have to create lists of the third-party websites that they do not want to track their behaviour.
Microsoft's privacy announcement comes amid moves in Washington to create "Do Not Track" mechanisms that would signal to online services not to collect web surfing or ad-targeting data.
The US Federal Trade Commission last week proposed an online "Do Not Track" option and a US congressman announced plans to introduce legislation that would bar companies from tracking the behaviour of children online.
"Some consumers today have been very clear that they have privacy concerns, like being unclear about what information is being shared and how it is used as they browse," said Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist.
"Consumers understand that they have a relationship with the site they visit directly, whose address is clearly visible to them," Cullen said.
"The modern web though means that websites include content from many other sites as well," he said. "These 'third-party' sites are in position to potentially track consumers, via cookies and other technology mechanisms."
Tracking Protection allows users to set up lists of third-party websites they do not want to exchange information with and to keep their choices in place as they navigate the web.
"These lists include web addresses for IE to treat as 'Do Not Call' unless the consumer visits the address directly," said Dean Hachamovitch, head of Internet Explorer development, in a reference to popular "Do Not Call" lists used to curb telemarketers.
"If a consumer chooses to add a Tracking Protection List, Internet Explorer 9 prevents information from being sent to the addresses in that list," Hachamovitch said.
Microsoft released an initial test version of IE9 in September which did not include Tracking Protection. Microsoft doesn't charge separately for IE and the browser is included with Windows software.
Internet Explorer is the most widely used web browser in the United States followed by Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.