Microsoft's IE8 Phones Home

On Friday, ComputerWorld reported that Microsoft went into defense mode over Internet Explorer 8’s "phone home" feature (Suggested Sites). Although the browser doesn’t claim to contact an alien race, it will suggest Internet sites based on URLs entered into the address bar by the end-user. Microsoft claims that the browser only sends limited information back to home base including the current URL, browser version, and "general locale information."

Cyra Richardson, a Microsoft principal program manager on the IE team, defended the latest public beta of IE8, but would not get into the specifics of what the data actually contains. “We want to be very accurate in the information we provide about what we capture, and that means going into the code,” she told the website. She stated that she would post an entry to the IE blog in the next few weeks that would address the issue.

But unlike Google’s Chrome browser, IE8 does not keep track of every keystroke entered into the address bar. In fact, the Suggested Sites feature transmits the entire, final URL once it enters into the browser’s History, and does not log and transmit cookies to Microsoft’s servers. Richardson claims that the data Microsoft logs "is actually pretty innocuous.”

Still, the information collected from IE8 remains in Microsoft’s hands for a good 18 months. Although IE8 strips the highly sensitive query string from the URLS before sending to Microsoft, what exactly the company does with this information remains a mystery. Naturally, cautious end-users are cocked and ready to retaliate against any corporation snooping in personal information, prominently usernames and passwords.

Currently Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is available to download, but requires a valid installation of Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008.

  • warezme
    wonder what ie8 suggest for a search of xtube
  • I think IE8 $uks majorly! IE8 xmits more information about browsing habits, apps etc.... and you have to pay a few hundred dollars for this added feature!! Go Linux/Ubuntu dude!! it rocks and has no built in spyware!!
  • frozenlead
    Well, I hate IE. But, this was a good writeup, if anyone notices. Good work on the writer's part.
  • Actually this doesn't phase me at all. Any kind of autocomplete feature like this needs to communicate with some list somewhere. Rather than clog the DNS servers of the world with billions of autocomplete DNS translation requests, Microsoft hosts servers with fast software that can direct you to the site you want.

    Obviously it needs to know what you've typed in so far to guess the rest of what you might want. Then when you finally choose the site, it transmits what you chose back to improve the list. Nothing dangerous or invasive at all.
  • Alternator
    Does it still do this when you are in privacy mode?
    I would presume not since apparently it has to go into the history.

    And what of Chrome which apparently logs all keystrokes, perhaps I need to google this (perhaps maybe yahoo it instead...)

    But my bigger concern is it seems every man and his dog wants a log of what you're doing on the net... ISP's obviously log it, search engines log your searches... now (perhaps always??) the browser providers are collecting logs of where you go too!
  • Also note that this is opt-in at install time. Most other articles on this have mentioned that.
  • virtualban
    Alternator: my bigger concern is it seems every man and his dog wants a log of what you're doing on the net
    Couldn't have said it better!!
    The only other way to reach privacy is a shared computer/network where many-many-many other people browse the internet and what you're doing on the net can be hidden among a very big collection others doings on the net.
  • virtualban
    What would they do knowing my internet activities anyway? Except for the obvious, the marketing of products I will never see with my conscious eyes and that will enter my sub conscience as products I'd hate because their advertisements would have been crafted around me just to turn me to another sheep/brick in the wall (not related to the wall of sheep of the hackers convention)...
  • DXRick
    This sounds like something that Google does. Google remembers what link(s) you click after a search, so that it can prioritize the thousands of matches found to give you the most likely ones. IE8 is doing the same thing with its built in search feature.

    Now, if they are also recording any of your personal info, to remember YOU, then it would be something to be concerned about.
  • killerb255
    I don't ever surf the net expecting privacy. That's like flashing your junk in public.

    On the other hand, if I order something online, I would like my credit card and bank info to be secure...