In early 2008, Microsoft Corp.'s product planners for the Internet Explorer 8.0 browser intended to give users a simple, effective way to avoid being tracked online. They wanted to design the software to automatically thwart common tracking tools, unless a user deliberately switched to settings affording less privacy.
That triggered heated debate inside Microsoft. As the leading maker of Web browsers, the gateway software to the Internet, Microsoft must balance conflicting interests: helping people surf the Web with its browser to keep their mouse clicks private, and helping advertisers who want to see those clicks.
When Microsoft released the browser in its final form in March 2009, the privacy features were a lot different from what its planners had envisioned. Internet Explorer required the consumer to turn on the feature that blocks tracking by websites, called InPrivate Filtering. It wasn't activated automatically.
What's more, even if consumers turn the feature on, Microsoft designed the browser so InPrivate Filtering doesn't stay on permanently. Users must activate the privacy setting every time they start up the browser.