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A look at Microsoft Edge's Tracking Prevention feature

Microsoft just added a new feature called Tracking Prevention to the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser; reason enough to take a look at it to find out what it does.

Tracking Prevention is only available in the latest Microsoft Edge Canary version at the time of writing. The feature is not enabled by default; in fact, it is hidden behind an experimental flag currently. All of this will change when the first final version of the new Microsoft Edge browser is released.

Before we look at the feature in detail, it is necessary to describe what it does. Microsoft describes Tracking Prevention in Edge in the following way:

Websites use trackers (like cookies and scripts) to collect info about how you use their sites and show you content like relevant ads. But some trackers collect and send your info to sites you haven’t visited. Microsoft Edge helps you control trackers.

The wording may sound familiar to Firefox users as it is pretty close to what Tracking Protection used to offer initially in Mozilla’s web browser.

Tracking Prevention configuration

microsoft edge tracking protection

Tracking Prevention comes with three different presets that users may switch between.

  • Basic — Blocks malicious trackers but allows those that show you relevant ads
  • Balanced (recommended) — Blocks malicious trackers and some third-party trackers. You’ll see less relevant ads.
  • Strict — Blocks the majority of third-party trackers, some sites might break

The default level is balanced. Edge users may switch levels on edge://settings/privacy in the browser’s Settings. An option to turn off the feature for specific sites is provided as well on the page.

The changes that you make on the page apply instantly, a restart is not required. You do need to reload tabs, however.

The Tracking Prevention flag

tracking prevention

Tracking Prevention is not available by default right now. Edge users need to enable an experimental flag first before it becomes available.

  1. Load edge://flags/#edge-tracking-prevention
  2. Set the flag to Enabled.
  3. Restart the browser.

Once restarted, Edge displays the new Tracking Prevention options under Privacy in the Settings.

How effective is it?

Tracking Prevention, just like Mozilla’s Tracking Protection feature, is not an ad-blocker. While the feature may block some ad units when enabled, it is not as effective as full-blown content blockers such as uBlock Origin.

I ran a quick test on some sites, Ghacks and YouTube in particular, to find out what Balanced and Strict modes in Edge would do.

Advertisement was displayed in Balanced mode on Ghacks but the units were blocked when I switched to Strict mode. YouTube continued to display advertisement regardless of the level I set Tracking Prevention to.

Closing Words

Tracking Prevention blocks some tracker connections and it may reduce the impact of tracking on the Internet while the feature is active but just like Firefox’s Tracking Protection, it does take care of just one side of the medal when it comes to problems associated with advertisement on today’s Internet.

Taking care of tracking is a step in the right direction but as long as advertising companies such as Google don’t address other advertising-related issues such as malvertising campaigns, it is not effective enough.

Edge users may install Edge-exclusive extensions and also extensions for Google Chrome.

Now You: What would have to happen before you’d relinquish content blockers?

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