Microsoft Offers Tracking Protection on IE9, Strikes Deal With USDA


Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been busy announcing over the last few days a new privacy feature on Internet Explorer and a first-of-its-kind service deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The software giant unveiled a new feature on Tuesday for its Internet Explorer 9 [IE], which is currently undergoing development, that provides consumers “tracking protection,” or freedom from third-party companies that collect and store online activity for advertising and other purposes.

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The feature allows consumers to filter content on a page that may have an impact on privacy, from stock tickers to social networking links.

“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,” Microsoft’s corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch, who also heads IE development and privacy, said in an interview with the company’s news center. “Some sharing is good – you may want a shopping site to know your history – but it is hard for anyone to differentiate today.”

While consumers’ addresses are visible to the site they visit, other third-party sites have the ability to potentially track consumers via cookies and other forms of technology, which has opened up a plethora of consumer privacy concerns.

The tracking feature on the new IE allows consumers to better control what data is being shared through their web browsing, enabling them to indicate which websites they’d like to avoid in terms of information sharing by adding a certain site to their Tracking Protection Lists, similar to a “do not call list.”

Meanwhile, the Redmond, Wash-based company said Wednesday that the USDA is moving some 120,000 users to Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, including on premises email and productivity applications, marking the cabinet-level federal agency the first to adopt Microsoft’s system.

The deal consolidates 21 different messaging and collaboration system into one, according to USDA chief information officer Chris Smith.

“This is really about increasing collaboration and communications across the breadth of 120,000 users in 5,000 offices across the country and 100 countries around the globe to better deliver on the USDA’s mission,” he said. “The more robust set of tools we can put in place, the better we’ll deliver goods and services for our mission to citizens here and around the world.”

The partnership deepens Microsoft’s involvement in the public sector, joining more than 500 state and local governments in 48 states operating under its cloud.

The US software maker said the deal could help spur interest from other federal agencies.

“From a momentum perspective, I think this announcement is going to be a phenomenal catalyst to drive more interest from the federal CIO community to think about moving their full messaging suite applications to the cloud with Microsoft,” said Curt Kolcun, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Public Sector.

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