I find it fascinating how quickly the industry is moving from deriding the IE8 Porn Mode to emulating it. Chrome and Safari apparently already have it, and now it’s coming to the Firefox world (via TechCrunch):
At one time, it was tough to cover your tracks after visiting some, uh, questionable sites, but now it’s getting easier than ever. According to Mozilla, Firefox is joining Safari, Internet Explorer 8, and Google Chrome in providing its users with a “private mode” that will not collect any of your browsing history or cookies in the upcoming release of Firefox 3.1.
Much like Chrome, users will be able to open a separate window in Firefox 3.1 that will let them browse the Web in any way they see fit without worrying about the wife or kids entering the History menu and seeing why they spent the last hour in the office with the door locked.
Despite the obvious porn driver, I am surprised that privacy advocates aren’t praising this feature. When using this mode the one of the most prevalent means of user tracking (permanent cookies) is done away with.
IE 8 has an interesting new privacy option called InPrivate that pundits have labeled ‘Porn Mode’ where the browser erases all traces of what you browsed after your session is over. This newsfactor.com article suggests that most enterprises will disallow this option, which I think is a mistake.
First it’s really telling that so many people believe that there are no legitimate reasons to use this feature. Even the person quoted as defending it seems half-hearted in his defense:
Ziegler suggested the need for such privacy is completely on the up-and-up. “Maybe you need to buy a gift for a loved one without ruining the surprise,” he wrote. “Maybe you’re at an Internet kiosk and don’t want the next person using it to know at which Web site you bank.”
Lame. How about this; maybe you think what you are browsing, no matter how innocuous, is your business and no one else’s. To have to invent legitimate (i.e. non-pornographic) uses is equivalent to saying “If you don’t have anything to hide, why do you object to us searching our house?”
Which brings us back to the enterprise. Should enterprises disallow this feature when they deploy IE 8? I believe that the answer is no for a host of very practical reasons. First, this is nothing that a knowledgeable user couldn’t do already, either manually or with the aid of third-party software. The bad guys already know how to do this.
Second, there is the matter of trust. By disallowing this feature you are basically saying you don’t trust your employees. Is that really the message you want to send to your employees? Disallowing this option is a very in-your-face action to take, for very little real benefit.