It's easy to bash Microsoft for its arrogance, its monopolistic tendencies and its glitchy software. But in this case, Microsoft merits praise. Who knows? Maybe Microsoft and rival America Online, owner of the Netscape browser, will duke it out to see who's the king of privacy. That's a battle worth fighting.
A consumer deserves to know when a site allows an outside force to imbed a tracking cookie on the user's hard drive. Microsoft's action casts a light directly on this shadow marketing. It need not be the end of third-party ad serving. Rather, the onus is on Net ad partisans to show consumers why targeted ads and consumer profiling are good things. The DoubleClicks of the world must come up with solutions that balance the needs of -- and deliver value to -- advertisers and consumers.
Microsoft is looking to add more privacy-enhancing features to Internet Explorer this fall. "It's an enormous commitment to advancing consumer protection," says a Microsoft executive. Good move.