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Microsoft improves Tracking Prevention in the new Edge browser

Work on the new Chromium-based Edge continues as the first official Stable release will become available on January 15, 2020 (one day after end of support for Windows 7).

Microsoft implemented a tracking prevention system into the Edge browser that is powered by  Disconnect tracking protection lists.

Mozilla added a similar system to the organization’s Firefox browser and enabled it in mid-2019 by default.

Starting in Edge 79, that tracking prevention list is 25% more effective than previously thanks to implemented improvements.

Microsoft describes how it analyzed the tracking prevention effectiveness and experimented with improving the functionality. The company wanted to make sure that Edge was blocking more types of trackers without affecting web compatibility in a negative way.

Basically, what Microsoft did was enable new tracking protection categories in Edge to block more trackers. To avoid compatibility issues, Microsoft devised a system that relaxed tracking prevention based on engagement scores in balanced mode.

Balanced mode is one of the modes supported by Edge; it is an attempt to balance the blocking of trackers with maintaining compatibility on the Internet. Edge users may switch the blocking to strict mode which blocks trackers without taking engagement into account.

edge tracking prevention

Edge users may load edge://settings/privacy in the browser’s address bar to open the tracking prevention controls. There, it may be disabled entirely or switched between basic, balanced and strict modes.

Options to allow trackers on certain sites and to view all trackers that were blocked by Edge are available as well.

Tip: Microsoft added protection against potentially unwanted applications to the Edge browser recently as well.

The new tracking prevention balanced mode uses a site engagement score from the Chromium project to measure a user’s engagement with sites. The higher the score the higher is the engagement of the user with the site. The score increases when a user visits the site or interacts with it.

These scores are computed and kept on the user device according to Microsoft. Organizations that own multiple domains are grouped into a single entity when it comes to the computation of the score. If at least one of the domains reaches Microsoft’s threshold for engagement, tracking is relaxed on all of the organization’s sites.

Microsoft published a table on the official Microsoft Edge Dev blog that highlights tracking prevention changes in Edge 79. Basic mode has not changed but Balanced and Strict mode have. Both modes disallow storage access for content category sites now whereas that was not disallowed in Edge 78 and earlier versions.

Strict mode furthermore blocks storage access to sites from the advertising, social, and other categories, and it uses the engagement mitigations for compatibility purposes.

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