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    8:06 am (UTC-7)   |    by

    Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer released major updates this week. The timing may be a coincidence or not but there is a very interesting feature that all three browsers are developing almost at the same time—private browsing.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a privacy report late last year that endorsed the privacy browsing feature. The report recommended that companies, including software developers, adopt a “privacy by design” approach to provide protection for consumer data. Perhaps, the near simultaneous release of these three browser developments can be considered major implementations of the FTC’s recommendation.

    Each of the three approaches to private browsing has its merits:

    • Mozilla Firefox Firefox advocates the use of a new HTTP header that, with time, all websites should honor. That’s a good long-term solution but until websites have the feature implemented, it’s pretty much useless. For instructions on how to enable private browsing for Firefox, you may view this page.
    • Google Chrome Chrome instead uses a blacklist of websites published by Google. HTTP cookies coming from blacklisted sites are not stored, avoiding user tracking. It’s a solid short-term intermediate solution. This is a new feature but Chrome calls its existing private browsing mode “incognito mode,” which can be enabled through the steps here.
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer Internet Explorer’s is similar, except that it allows for a more granular control over lists. The user can choose between different blacklists and, possibly, even add sites to them. This is possibly the best solution so far but I’m sure there will be developments on all of these features pretty soon. Users interested in enabling this feature can check out the instructions provided on the vendor’s website.

    More Control Over Your Browsing

    There is a growing concern about public browsing and, in my opinion, that’s a great thing. The marketing guys will hate me for saying this but I feel it’s creepy when you access a website for the first time and they try to sell you things based on your past buying history. In the same way, I dislike the fact that Google decides what results are better for me or when a site offers me the option to send the page to my Facebook friends.

    Of course, you may have a different opinion and that’s okay. That’s why having the option to privately browse the Web makes sense—it’s all about giving people the option to browse however they prefer. Having more control over your browsing is never a bad thing.

    But How Does This Affect You?

    Finally, private browsing! But how does this change my life? Well, for starters, you can now minimize the amount of targeted advertising you’re exposed to. That’s if you want to, of course. The key element is choice. Decide what kind of browsing you want and, yes, now you can choose.

    The three main browsers have chosen three very different ways to implement privacy. Which one will prevail at the end is anyone’s guess although having something is better than having nothing at all. Experiment with them if you care about private browsing at all and perhaps you’ll end up changing browsers. At the end of the day, when there are more choices, the consumer wins.

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