Patent application title: INTERNET PRIVACY USER INTERFACE
Aaron Goldfeder (Seattle, WA, US)
Cem Paya (Seattle, WA, US)
Joseph J. Gallagher (Seattle, WA, US)
Roberto A. Franco (Seattle, WA, US)
Roberto A. Franco (Seattle, WA, US)
Stephen J. Purpura (Kirkland, WA, US)
Darren Mitchell (Woodinville, WA, US)
Frank M. Schwieterman (Seattle, WA, US)
Viresh Ramdatmisier (Seattle, WA, US)
IPC8 Class: AG06F3048FI
Class name: For plural users or sites (e.g., network) interface customization or adaption (e.g., client server) based on stored usage or user profile (e.g., frequency of use, cookies)
Publication date: 2012-09-20
Patent application number: 20120240050
A method and system that provide an intuitive user interface and related
components for making Internet users aware of Internet cookie-related
privacy issues, and enabling users to control Internet privacy through
automatic cookie handling. Default privacy settings for handling cookies
are provided, and through the user interface, the privacy settings may be
customized to a user's liking. Further, through the user interface, for
each individual site that forms a page of content, the site's privacy
policy may be reviewed and/or the privacy controlled by specifying how
cookies from that site are to be handled. To make users aware, the user
interface provides an active alert on a first instance of a retrieved web
site's content that fails to include satisfactory privacy information,
and thereafter, provides a distinctive passive alert to allow the user
selective access to privacy information, per-site cookie handling and
cookie handling settings.
1. A computer-implemented method comprising: causing display of a user
interface to enable a user to configure cookie handling settings of a web
browser, the user interface comprising at least a first set of selection
options for first party cookie handling, a second set of selection
options for third party cookie handling, and a session cookie handling
selection option; receiving input, via the user interface, to configure
the cookie handling settings of the web browser; and configuring the
cookie handling settings of the web browser based on the input received
via the user interface.
2. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein the first set of selection options for first party cookie handling comprises an accept selection option, a block selection option, and a prompt selection option, and wherein the second set of selection options for third party cookie handling comprises an additional accept selection option, an additional block selection option, and an additional prompt selection option.
3. The computer-implemented method of claim 2, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to accept first party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the accept selection option associated with the first set of selection options; and configuring the web browser to accept third party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the additional accept selection option associated with the second set of selection options.
4. The computer-implemented method of claim 2, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to block first party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the block selection option associated with the first set of selection options; and configuring the web browser to block third party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the additional block selection option associated with the second set of selection options.
5. The computer-implemented method of claim 2, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to cause display of a prompt dialog when a first party cookie is encountered by the web browser responsive to receiving a selection of the prompt selection option associated with the first set of selection options, the prompt dialog to enable the user to accept or block the first party cookie when the first party cookie is encountered; and configuring the web browser to cause display of the prompt dialog when a third party cookie is encountered by the web browser responsive to receiving a selection of the additional prompt selection option associated with the second set of selection options, the prompt dialog to enable the user to accept or block the third party cookie when the third party cookie is encountered
6. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein the configuring comprises configuring the web browser to accept session cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the session cookie handling selection option.
7. The computer-implemented method of claim 6, wherein the selection of the session cookie handling selection option causes the web browser to allow session cookies regardless of whether first party cookies or third party cookies are configured to be blocked.
8. The computer-implemented method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving a response to a request for content of a remote server during a browsing session using the web browser, the response comprising data directed to a requested operation on a cookie; determining whether the cookie is a first-party cookie or a third-party cookie; determining whether the cookie is a persistent cookie or a session cookie; determining a privacy result based on whether the cookie is a first party cookie or a third party cookie, and whether the cookie is a persistent cookie or a session cookie, based on the configuration of the cookie handling settings of the web browser.
9. The computer-implemented method of claim 8, further comprising allowing the requested operation on the cookie if the privacy result indicates the requested operation on the cookie should be allowed.
10. The computer-implemented method of claim 8, further comprising blocking the requested operation on the cookie if the privacy result indicates the requested operation on the cookie should be blocked.
11. One or more computer-readable storage media, having computer-executable instructions stored thereon that, when executed, implement a method comprising: causing display of a user interface to enable a user to configure cookie handling settings of a web browser, the user interface comprising at least a first set of selection options for first party cookie handling, a second set of selection options for third party cookie handling, and a session cookie handling selection option; receiving input, via the user interface, to configure the cookie handling settings of the web browser; and configuring the cookie handling settings of the web browser based on the input received via the user interface.
12. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 11, wherein the first set of selection options for first party cookie handling comprises an accept selection option, a block selection option, and a prompt selection option, and wherein the second set of selection options for third party cookie handling comprises an additional accept selection option, an additional block selection option, and an additional prompt selection option.
13. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 12, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to accept first party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the accept selection option associated with the first set of selection options; and configuring the web browser to accept third party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the additional accept selection option associated with the second set of selection options.
14. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 12, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to block first party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the block selection option associated with the first set of selection options; and configuring the web browser to block third party cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the additional block selection option associated with the second set of selection options.
15. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 12, wherein the configuring comprises at least one of: configuring the web browser to cause display of a prompt dialog when a first party cookie is encountered by the web browser responsive to receiving a selection of the prompt selection option associated with the first set of selection options, the prompt dialog to enable the user to accept or block the first party cookie when the first party cookie is encountered; and configuring the web browser to cause display of the prompt dialog when a third party cookie is encountered by the web browser responsive to receiving a selection of the additional prompt selection option associated with the second set of selection options, the prompt dialog to enable the user to accept or block the third party cookie when the third party cookie is encountered
16. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 11, wherein the configuring comprises configuring the web browser to accept session cookies responsive to receiving a selection of the session cookie handling selection option.
17. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 16, wherein the selection of the session cookie handling selection option causes the web browser to allow session cookies regardless of whether first party cookies or third party cookies are configured to be blocked.
18. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 11, wherein the method further comprises: receiving a response to a request for content of a remote server during a browsing session using the web browser, the response comprising data directed to a requested operation on a cookie; determining whether the cookie is a first-party cookie or a third-party cookie; determining whether the cookie is a persistent cookie or a session cookie; determining a privacy result based on whether the cookie is a first party cookie or a third party cookie, and whether the cookie is a persistent cookie or a session cookie, based on the configuration of the cookie handling settings of the web browser.
19. The one or more computer-readable storage media of claim 18, wherein the method further comprises: allowing the requested operation on the cookie if the privacy result indicates the requested operation on the cookie should be allowed; or blocking the requested operation on the cookie if the privacy result indicates the requested operation on the cookie should be blocked.
20. A computer device comprising: a processor; one or more computer-readable storage media having computer-executable instructions stored thereon that, when executed, cause display of a user interface configured to enable a user to configure cookie handling settings of a web browser, the user interface comprising: a first set of selection options configured to receive input to configure first party cookie handling settings of the web browser, the first set of selection options comprising an accept selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to accept first party cookies, a block selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to block first party cookies, and a prompt selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to prompt the user for confirmation before accepting first party cookies; a second set of selection options configured to receive input to configure third party cookie handling settings of the web browser, the second set of selection options comprising an additional accept selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to accept third party cookies, an additional block selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to block third party cookies, and an additional prompt selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to prompt the user for confirmation before accepting third party cookies; and a session cookie handling selection option, the session cookie handling selection option configured to receive input to cause the web browser to allow session cookie regardless of whether first party cookies or third party cookies are configured to be blocked.
 This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/337,376, filed Dec. 4, 2001, entitled "Web Browser Features for Privacy Protection." This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/187,389 entitled "Internet Privacy User Interface", the disclosure of which is incorporated in its entirety by reference herein. The application is also related to United States patent applications entitled "System and Method Facilitating Contextual and/or Downgraded Cookies," Ser. No. 09/998,702 and "Method and System for Protecting Internet Users' Privacy by Evaluating Web Site Platform for Privacy Preferences Policy, Ser. No. 09/999,175, both of which were filed on Nov. 30, 2001 and are hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The invention relates generally to computer systems and the Internet, and more particularly to Internet privacy.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The Internet, which in essence includes a large number of networked computers distributed throughout the world, has become an extremely popular source of virtually all kinds of information. Increasingly sophisticated computers, software, and networking technology have made Internet access relatively straightforward for end users. For example, conventional browser software allows a user to request information such as a web page from a web site on one or more remote computers. To this end, the user provides the address of the web page (e.g., a uniform resource identifier, or URI) in some manner to the browser software, and the browser software transmits the request using a well known communication protocol such as the HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP). The request is then routed to the destination computer or web site based on the address.
 When the request is received, the remote web site evaluates the request and returns an appropriate response, which may include the information requested in some formatted content, e.g., a HyperText Markup Language (HTML) format. The browser software parses and interprets the returned content to render a page or the like upon the user's computer display.
 When accessed, some web sites attempt to store information on the user's computer, in a small text file referred to as a cookie. Many times this is desirable to the user, e.g., so that the user does not have to repeatedly resubmit information manually to the remote computer hosting the web site, but instead can automatically provide the information as stored in the cookie. For example, a user can allow cookies to be stored on his or her computer so as to be able to view some web sites, and/or to take advantage of desirable customization features, such as local news and weather, or stock quotes. Such a cookie is likely a persistent cookie, which remains on the user's computer when the browsing software is closed, so that the cookie can be read by the web site that created it when that site is later revisited. Alternatively, a temporary or session cookie may be stored on a user's computer only for the current browsing session. Such a cookie is deleted from the computer when the browsing software is closed.
 While some cookies are thus valuable to users, other cookies allow abuse of the user's privacy, essentially by allowing access to personally identifiable information that may be used for a secondary purpose, without the user's consent or knowledge. For example, less-than-trustworthy web sites can invade a user's privacy by tracking the web sites that the user has visited. Such a site may do this by storing a cookie on the user's machine, and then having advertisements or the like embedded in other web sites. When such other web sites are visited, the embedded web site can retrieve its cookie and thereby obtain information indicating that the user visited the specific site. Over time, this information may be collected and analyzed to profile a user's web surfing habits across a set of web sites. Such information may be used for many purposes, even though a user would not want that information known. For example, the information may be used for targeted advertising, resold to others, and so forth.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 In general, one aspect of the present invention makes users aware of privacy issues by automatically providing an active alert (such as a pop-up dialog box) on a first instance of a retrieved web site's content that fails to include satisfactory privacy information. Thereafter, subsequent instances of missing or unsatisfactory privacy information from a web site result in a distinctive passive alert, such as in the form of a displayed icon in a window of the browser that renders the content.
 The browser interprets privacy settings to block the storage and/or retrieval of cookies for sites that may otherwise share data without user permission, or for sites that do not provide privacy information and thus are capable of sharing such data. Default privacy settings are provided, which can then be individually customized, or more simply adjusted to various privacy levels via a simple privacy settings slider control. Privacy settings may also be imported from a customized privacy settings file or the like.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Other advantages will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
 FIG. 1 is a block diagram generally representing a computer system into which the present invention may be incorporated;
 FIG. 2 is a block diagram generally representing various components for evaluating privacy;
 FIG. 3 is a block diagram generally representing a privacy mechanism including an evaluation engine that determines whether to allow or deny Internet cookie-related operations;
 FIG. 4 is a block diagram generally representing data exchanged among components to provide internet privacy evaluation;
 FIGS. 5-7 comprise a flow diagram representing exemplary logic and related operations performed by the evaluation engine to evaluate and determine whether a requested cookie-related operation is allowed or denied;
 FIG. 8 is a representation of an example initial privacy user interface provided to a user a first time a cookie operation is blocked, in accordance with one aspect of the present invention;
 FIG. 9 is a representation of an example privacy status icon provided to a user whenever a cookie operation is blocked, in accordance with one aspect of the present invention;
 FIG. 10 is a representation of an example privacy report user interface dialog provided to a user when the user actuates the privacy status icon of FIG. 9, in accordance with one aspect of the present invention;
 FIG. 12 is a representation of an example privacy settings user interface dialog provided to a user to enable the user to view and control privacy settings, in accordance with one aspect of the present invention;
 FIG. 13 is a representation of an example advanced settings user interface dialog provided to a user when the user selects an advanced settings option from the privacy settings user interface of FIG. 12.
 FIG. 14 is a representation of a per-site user interface dialog provided to a user when the user selects a web site edit option from the privacy settings user interface of FIG. 12;
 FIG. 15A is a representation of a privacy prompt that appears upon detecting certain types of cookies as specified by a user in the advanced options dialog of FIG. 13;
 FIG. 15B is a representation of an expanded privacy prompt that appears when a user requests more information when presented with the prompt of FIG. 15A; and
 FIGS. 16-18 generally comprise a flow diagram explaining the various states of operation and the relationship between the user interface components of FIGS. 8-14.
Exemplary Operating Environment
 FIG. 1 illustrates an example of a suitable computing system environment 100 on which the invention may be implemented. The computing system environment 100 is only one example of a suitable computing environment and is not intended to suggest any limitation as to the scope of use or functionality of the invention. Neither should the computing environment 100 be interpreted as having any dependency or requirement relating to any one or combination of components illustrated in the exemplary operating environment 100.
 The invention is operational with numerous other general purpose or special purpose computing system environments or configurations. Examples of well known computing systems, environments, and/or configurations that may be suitable for use with the invention include, but are not limited to: personal computers, server computers, hand-held or laptop devices, tablet devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, set top boxes, programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, distributed computing environments that include any of the above systems or devices, and the like.
 The invention may be described in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as program modules, being executed by a computer. Generally, program modules include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, and so forth, that perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types. The invention may also be practiced in distributed computing environments where tasks are performed by remote processing devices that are linked through a communications network. In a distributed computing environment, program modules may be located in local and/or remote computer storage media including memory storage devices.
 With reference to FIG. 1, an exemplary system for implementing the invention includes a general purpose computing device in the form of a computer 110. Components of the computer 110 may include, but are not limited to, a processing unit 120, a system memory 130, and a system bus 121 that couples various system components including the system memory to the processing unit 120. The system bus 121 may be any of several types of bus structures including a memory bus or memory controller, a peripheral bus, and a local bus using any of a variety of bus architectures. By way of example, and not limitation, such architectures include Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus, Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) bus, Enhanced ISA (EISA) bus, Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) local bus, and Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus also known as Mezzanine bus.
 The computer 110 typically includes a variety of computer-readable media. Computer-readable media can be any available media that can be accessed by the computer 110 and includes both volatile and nonvolatile media, and removable and non-removable media. By way of example, and not limitation, computer-readable media may comprise computer storage media and communication media. Computer storage media includes both volatile and nonvolatile, removable and non-removable media implemented in any method or technology for storage of information such as computer-readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data. Computer storage media includes, but is not limited to, RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory or other memory technology, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD) or other optical disk storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium which can be used to store the desired information and which can accessed by the computer 110. Communication media typically embodies computer-readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data in a modulated data signal such as a carrier wave or other transport mechanism and includes any information delivery media. The term "modulated data signal" means a signal that has one or more of its characteristics set or changed in such a manner as to encode information in the signal. By way of example, and not limitation, communication media includes wired media such as a wired network or direct-wired connection, and wireless media such as acoustic, RF, infrared and other wireless media. Combinations of the any of the above should also be included within the scope of computer-readable media.
 The system memory 130 includes computer storage media in the form of volatile and/or nonvolatile memory such as read only memory (ROM) 131 and random access memory (RAM) 132. A basic input/output system 133 (BIOS), containing the basic routines that help to transfer information between elements within computer 110, such as during start-up, is typically stored in ROM 131. RAM 132 typically contains data and/or program modules that are immediately accessible to and/or presently being operated on by processing unit 120. By way of example, and not limitation, FIG. 1 illustrates operating system 134, application programs 135, other program modules 136 and program data 137.
 The computer 110 may also include other removable/non-removable, volatile/nonvolatile computer storage media. By way of example only, FIG. 1 illustrates a hard disk drive 141 that reads from or writes to non-removable, nonvolatile magnetic media, a magnetic disk drive 151 that reads from or writes to a removable, nonvolatile magnetic disk 152, and an optical disk drive 155 that reads from or writes to a removable, nonvolatile optical disk 156 such as a CD ROM or other optical media. Other removable/non-removable, volatile/nonvolatile computer storage media that can be used in the exemplary operating environment include, but are not limited to, magnetic tape cassettes, flash memory cards, digital versatile disks, digital video tape, solid state RAM, solid state ROM, and the like. The hard disk drive 141 is typically connected to the system bus 121 through a non-removable memory interface such as interface 140, and magnetic disk drive 151 and optical disk drive 155 are typically connected to the system bus 121 by a removable memory interface, such as interface 150.
 The drives and their associated computer storage media, described above and illustrated in FIG. 1, provide storage of computer-readable instructions, data structures, program modules and other data for the computer 110. In FIG. 1, for example, hard disk drive 141 is illustrated as storing operating system 144, application programs 145, other program modules 146 and program data 147. Note that these components can either be the same as or different from operating system 134, application programs 135, other program modules 136, and program data 137. Operating system 144, application programs 145, other program modules 146, and program data 147 are given different numbers herein to illustrate that, at a minimum, they are different copies. A user may enter commands and information into the computer 20 through input devices such as a tablet, or electronic digitizer, 164, a microphone 163, a keyboard 162 and pointing device 161, commonly referred to as mouse, trackball or touch pad. Other input devices not shown in FIG. 1 may include a joystick, game pad, satellite dish, scanner, or the like. These and other input devices are often connected to the processing unit 120 through a user input interface 160 that is coupled to the system bus, but may be connected by other interface and bus structures, such as a parallel port, game port or a universal serial bus (USB). A monitor 191 or other type of display device is also connected to the system bus 121 via an interface, such as a video interface 190. The monitor 191 may also be integrated with a touch-screen panel or the like. Note that the monitor and/or touch screen panel can be physically coupled to a housing in which the computing device 110 is incorporated, such as in a tablet-type personal computer. In addition, computers such as the computing device 110 may also include other peripheral output devices such as speakers 195 and printer 196, which may be connected through an output peripheral interface 194 or the like.
 The computer 110 may operate in a networked environment using logical connections to one or more remote computers, such as a remote computer 180. The remote computer 180 may be a personal computer, a server, a router, a network PC, a peer device or other common network node, and typically includes many or all of the elements described above relative to the computer 110, although only a memory storage device 181 has been illustrated in FIG. 1. The logical connections depicted in FIG. 1 include a local area network (LAN) 171 and a wide area network (WAN) 173, but may also include other networks. Such networking environments are commonplace in offices, enterprise-wide computer networks, intranets and the Internet. For example, in the present invention, the computer system 110 may comprise source machine from which data is being migrated, and the remote computer 180 may comprise the destination machine Note however that source and destination machines need not be connected by a network or any other means, but instead, data may be migrated via any media capable of being written by the source platform and read by the destination platform or platforms.
 When used in a LAN networking environment, the computer 110 is connected to the LAN 171 through a network interface or adapter 170. When used in a WAN networking environment, the computer 110 typically includes a modem 172 or other means for establishing communications over the WAN 173, such as the Internet. The modem 172, which may be internal or external, may be connected to the system bus 121 via the user input interface 160 or other appropriate mechanism. In a networked environment, program modules depicted relative to the computer 110, or portions thereof, may be stored in the remote memory storage device. By way of example, and not limitation, FIG. 1 illustrates remote application programs 185 as residing on memory device 181. It will be appreciated that the network connections shown are exemplary and other means of establishing a communications link between the computers may be used.
 Internet Privacy Control
 One aspect of the present invention is generally directed to the concept of cookies, which typically comprise small text files written by web sites to a machine that is requesting content from those sites. There are various types (properties and/or contexts) of cookies, and as will be described below, privacy-related decisions may be made based on various criteria, including the cookie types. Examples of various types of cookies are set forth herein, and also can be found in the related copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/998,702 entitled "System and Method Facilitating Contextual and/or Downgraded Cookies," which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
 For example, cookies can either be persistent or temporary. A persistent cookie is a cookie stored on a computer as a file that remains there after the browsing session is completed, e.g., when the browser code is closed. A persistent cookie can be read by the web site that created it when that site is visited again. A session cookie is temporarily stored, only for the current browsing session, and is deleted from the computer when the browser software instance is closed.
 These various cookie-related concepts are described in more detail below with respect to their usage in controlling privacy. Notwithstanding, it will be appreciated that the present invention is not limited to cookie files as conventionally understood, or any other type of cookie data, but rather contemplates virtually any information in any form that one computer can use with respect to another computer. Thus, as used herein, the term "cookie," "cookie data", "cookie file" and the like represent such information, regardless of how it is identified, formatted, provided, maintained, and so on.
 FIG. 2 shows a generalized conceptual model of browsing software 200 executing in a client machine (e.g., the computer system 110 of FIG. 1) that communicates via a network interface software and hardware 202 with a remote server (e.g., one of the remote computer(s) 180 of FIG. 1). The communication may include requests for content or the like (e.g., HTTP "GET" requests) such as the request 204, and result in responses such as the response 206 being received from the server 180. Communication between the client 110 and the server 180 typically uses a well-known network protocol, such as hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). As used herein, "server" or "network server" includes any machine or combination of machines having content and (in keeping with an aspect of the present invention as described below) cookies maintained thereon or in association therewith, shown in FIG. 2 as the block labeled 208. Network servers may thus include HTTP "web sites," including those having sites with different names (which may be regarded as different virtual servers even if they are hosted on the same physical machine) Note that a web site may be distributed over many virtual servers, which in turn may be distributed over many physical machines.
 When content 216 is returned, the content is passed from the internet transport component 210 (possibly though other layers of code 220) to browser parser/interpreter code 222 that parses and interprets the content for displaying to the user via a browser user interface 224. The browser parser/interpreter code 222 may invoke a script engine 226 as needed to interpret any script embedded in or referenced by the content. Similar content also may be stored in a local cache 230 accessed via a cache manager 232 that is included in or otherwise associated with the internet transport component 210. For example, the cache manager component 232 manages the cache by maintaining site-to-local-file mappings in a cache table 234 or the like, such that the content and related data may be locally accessed as appropriate. Note that although FIG. 2 shows a single storage unit 236 (e.g., the hard disk drive 141 of FIG. 1) as maintaining the various data, as is understood the data may be maintained in and/or distributed among separate storage units.
 Note that as described below, the determination may be an automatic allow or deny, or require user input via a prompt. A determination may also downgrade a cookie from a persistent cookie to a session cookie, and/or leash a cookie, which means that a cookie may be stored, but will not be allowed to be replayed in a third party context. Note that replay of a cookie is dependent on whether it was leashed or not at cookie set time. If the cookie was leashed and the current request is a third party request, the cookie is suppressed. Flags or the like may be maintained in association with the cookie to preserve these states.
 FIG. 3 represents one suitable implementation of the general components that can be logically thought of as comprising the privacy mechanism 240, including the evaluation engine 242, along with various other components connected thereto. In general, to request a cookie-related operation, the cookie jar 246 can be accessed in at least two ways, including via HTTP response handling code 300 (e.g., via a meta tag interpreted by the browser parser/interpreter code 222 that requests a cookie be set) and/or via script. With script, the script engine 226 calls an InternetSetCookie( ) API 302 that similarly requests that a cookie be set. The exchange of data for these operations are described below with respect to FIG. 4, however for now it suffices to understand that a server response (e.g., 206) may be requesting storage of a cookie.
 Similarly, when a web site via a server response or other communication requests that a cookie be recalled from storage and provided to the site, referred to as a replay operation (or "replaying," "replayed" and so forth), the cookie jar 246 is accessed. Still further, cookie deletion requests are received at the cookie jar 246.
 When accessed for a cookie-related operation, e.g., for cookie-related storing, replaying or deleting, the cookie jar 246 calls into the evaluation engine 242 for a determination as to whether the requested operation is to be allowed. In turn, the evaluation engine 242 evaluates various criteria to determine the privacy impact and thereby determine whether the requested operation may proceed. As described below, particularly with respect to the flow diagrams of FIGS. 5-7, the evaluation engine 242 executes code that takes the various sets of relevant information and determines therefrom whether the requested cookie operation is allowed. The criteria in the evaluation may include a web site's P3P compact policy, if any is provided, along with user privacy preferences, and characteristics of the operation itself.
 More particularly, one aspect of the present invention is directed to a formalization of the concept of first party cookies versus third party cookies and a distinction between them with respect to privacy. A cookie is set on a domain or a host, and when a request directed to this domain or host is made at some point later in time, the cookie may be replayed. Initially, the browsing software 200 is directed to navigate to a URL (uniform resource locator, or URI, uniform resource identifier), which is the top level document, for example, http://www.anysite.com. For each URL downloaded as a dependency of the top level document, the host name is compared from right to left with the host name of the top level document to see if they match. If there is a mismatch in the name, the download is considered THIRD PARTY. If one of the names ends before a mismatch is found, the download is considered FIRST PARTY.
 The following table sets forth examples:
TABLE-US-00001 Top Level Dependency Result www.anysite.com www.anysite.com First Party www.anysite.com anysite.com First Party www.anysite.com othersite.com Third Party foo.anysite.com bar.anysite.com First Party foo.anysite.com anysite.com First Party foo.anysite.com bar.foo.anysite.com First Party
 When the browser parser/interpreter 222 processes the content, these dependencies are detected and passed along with a flag or the like that indicates their first or third party status to the evaluation engine 242, e.g., via a protocol stack. In keeping with one aspect of the present invention, first party and third party cookies may be distinguished from one another with respect to locally controlling (e.g., allowing, denying, downgrading, prompting for or leashing) cookie-related operations.
 In addition to first or third party data, the evaluation engine 242 may distinguish between persistent and session cookies as described above. As a general rule, there is a higher threshold (lesser privacy settings) to store a persistent cookie than a session cookie. Indeed, one result is to downgrade a cookie from a persistent to a session cookie, meaning the cookie can be stored, but only temporarily (e.g., during the browsing session).
 User Privacy Settings
 In addition to the cookie's criteria, the evaluation engine may also refer to a per-site list that allows users to have a more-refined control over which sites are allowed to store cookies. As described below, for any specific site, users can specify an action for each site, either accept, i.e., always accept cookies from this site, deny, i.e., always reject cookies from this site, or use policy, i.e., perform normal evaluation of any P3P policy provided to determine whether to allow cookie-directed actions.
 To make such site-based determinations, the evaluation engine 242 accesses a database 304 or the like comprising a per-site store relating sites to user settings. The database 304 may be accessed through a per-site list API 306 or the like, including by components 308 directed to user configuration and/or privacy reporting via user interface operations, while the evaluation engine 242 may be arranged to access the store 306 directly. For example, the user can specify sites through the browsing software's user interface 224, in particular via a per-site dialog 1400 described below with reference to FIG. 14, or via a utility program. The per-site database 304 maintains a list of specific web sites and the rules to be used when manipulating cookies for that web site, e.g., this store can specify sites for which cookies should always be accepted, never be accepted, or for which P3P evaluation should take place, as described below.
 Another set of components of the privacy mechanism 240 is directed to storing the user's preference settings, in a preferences store 310, accessible via a settings API 312. The preferences store 310 provides data to the evaluation engine 242 indicating which P3P tokens are to be accepted or rejected, and under what circumstances.
 The preferences store 310 contains the settings that relate to the P3P compact policy evaluation, and may be set from the configuration UI 308, e.g., the browser user interface 222, as exemplified with reference to FIG. 12. For example, the user may move a slider bar 1204 (FIG. 12) that sets one of six privacy levels, each of which have settings related to P3P tokens in the compact policy. At one level, for example, a "No Cookies" setting may be chosen, which if selected, does not accept or send any cookies (session and persistent), does not delete cookies, does not replay legacy cookies, and the per-site list does not override such rules. Various levels of privacy settings, including "Accept all cookies," "Low," "Medium," "Medium High," "High," and "No Cookies" are described below with reference to FIG. 12.
 A privacy URL action component 320 is also provided, which comprises an instance of a URL action used to describe a behavior the browser software 200 should take with respect to privacy preferences. This URL action 320 comprises a global override that has three states, namely accept all cookies, reject all cookies, or proceed with P3P compact policy evaluation. One primary function of this feature is to determine whether to accept cookies coming in from a web site or set through script, or replay a cookie to a given host on a given HTTP request.
 In general, sites may correspond to one of four zones, namely an Internet zone, a local intranet zone, a trusted sites zone, and a restricted sites zone. The Internet zone, by default, contains anything that is not on the user's computer, on an intranet, or assigned to any other zone. As can be appreciated, default settings and user adjustments thereto in general tend to be more conservative with respect to security and/or privacy when the user is accessing a site contained in the Internet zone, due to the number of unknowns that exist on with Internet sites in general. For example, and as described below, the user can set the browsing software 200 to generate a prompt (at least the first time) via the UI 224 before any cookie can be saved from an Internet zone site. The response to the prompt may be stored in association with this particular site so that the user need not again be interrupted when this site is accessed.
 A Local intranet zone typically contains any addresses that do not require a proxy server, as defined by the system administrator. These may include sites identified by network paths (such as \\computername\foldername), and local intranet sites (typically addresses that do not contain periods, such as http://internal). A user or administrator can add sites to this zone, such as via a user interface. Since sites in such a zone are more trusted, the default settings tend to be such that the evaluation engine 242 allows cookie operations from web sites in this zone, although of course the actual settings determine the result.
 The Trusted sites zone corresponds to sites that the user (or administrator) specifically believes can be sufficiently trusted such that files can be downloaded and/or run therefrom without worrying about damage to the user's computer or data. Such sites may be those having well-established, positive reputations, and the user can assign sites to this zone. Since such sites are trusted, security and privacy defaults to being relatively low, e.g., the default settings are such that the evaluation engine 242 will by default allow cookie-related operations from web sites in this zone to be performed on the user's computer and read by the web site that created them, at least for first-party cookies.
 A restricted sites zone is essentially for sites that are the opposite of trusted sites. This zone contains sites the user does not trust, or is at least uncertain as to whether files can be safely downloaded and/or run from these sites. The user can assign sites to this zone. Default security and privacy levels for restricted sites zone is relatively high, e.g., by default the evaluation engine 242 may block the cookie operations from any web sites in this zone.
 The global URL action evaluation and user preference setting evaluation performed by the evaluation engine 242 are zone dependent, i.e., per-zone. For example, global rules such as "reject all cookies from any sites in the restricted sites zone" but "use P3P evaluation for Internet zone sites" may be set. Further, the user preference settings depend on zone and cookie type (first or third party, persistent or session) combinations. Thus, for example, there may be sixteen combinations when using four zones, that is, four zones by two (first or third) party types by two (persistent or session) cookie-storage types. Note however that per-site information, (where the user identifies a specific site and controls the settings for it), is not zone dependent, except to the extent that a zone-dependent global URL action 320 may prevent the per-site information 304 from ever being evaluated, as described below with respect to FIG. 5.
 Thus, the user can control and customize privacy by changing privacy levels on a per-zone basis, or, the user can customize the settings within a zone. The user can also customize settings for a zone by importing a privacy settings file, such as from a certificate authority.
 In one implementation, rules are set and retrieved via functions, such as a PrivacySetZonePreferenceW Function and a PrivacyGetZonePreferenceW. The PrivacySetZonePreferenceW Sets the privacy settings for a given URLZONE and PrivacyType. The following tables describes this function:
TABLE-US-00002 DWORD PrivacySetZonePreferenceW( DWORD dwZone, DWORD dwType, DWORD dwTemplate, LPCWSTR pszPreference );
 The dwZone parameter specifies the URLZONE for which privacy settings are being set. The dwType parameter specifies the PrivacyType for which privacy settings are being set. The dwTemplate parameter specifies which of the PrivacyTemplates is to be used to set the privacy settings. If dwTemplate is set to PRIVACY_TEMPLATE_CUSTOM, the pszPreference parameter is the string representation of the custom preferences, otherwise, it is ignored. The function returns zero if successful, otherwise an errorcode is returned. For simplicity, the privacy options can be accomplished by moving a slider bar on a user interface to set the PrivacyTemplates for PrivacyTypes. Custom privacy preferences for a given URLZONE and PrivacyType can be set through the pszPreference parameter. The pszPreference parameter can contain a series of rules separated by white space describing the privacy preferences. Note that the rules themselves cannot contain white space. The pszPreference has the following structure, where there can be multiple logical rules:
wherein, for example, the signature may be set to "IE6-P3PSetting/V1:". Logical rules have the following format:
 An expression is a Boolean statement composed of compact policy tokens using the operators "&" (logical AND) and "!" (logical NOT). In one implementation, the compact policy token is case-sensitive. The decision is a single lowercase character that defines the action to take on the cookie whose compact policy contains the specified token or tokens. The following table lists valid decision characters:
TABLE-US-00003 Character Definition a Accept cookie p Prompt user to accept or deny the cookie r Reject the cookie l Leash the cookie (only send it in a first-party context) d Downgrade the cookie, if it is a persistent cookie, to a session cookie.
 Logical rules are evaluated in the order they are listed. The first logical-rule to be matched, if any, determines the cookie action. An empty expression is also allowed. If an expression is empty, the left-hand side evaluates to true. This form of a logical-rule can be used at the end of a set of rules to catch all situations that did not fall into the other categories. The following examples show valid logical rules:
TABLE-US-00004 /DEM=d/ Deny a cookie whose compact policy contains the DEM token /CON&!TEL=a/ Accept a cookie whose compact policy contains the CON token and does not contain the TEL token /=a/ Accept all cookies
 Special rules may be specified using the nopolicy, session, and always symbols. The nopolicy symbol is used to specify the action to taken when there is no compact policy. For example nopolicy=d specifies to downgrade all cookies without a compact policy to session cookies. The session symbol is used to specify the action to take on session cookies, and can only be set to session=a. When session=a is specified, session cookies are accepted regardless of the content of the compact policy. If this rule is not specified, session cookies are subject to the same rules as persistent cookies. Also, the always symbol is used to specify to perform the same action for everything. For example, always=d specifies to deny all cookies regardless of the existence of a compact policy. Note that always=d is equivalent to /=d/.
 The following example shows a privacy preferences string that specifies to accept cookies for which the compact policy contains a FIN/CONi token pair, reject cookies with compact policies containing FIN/CON, FIN/CONo, FIN/CONa and GOV/PUB token pairs or a TEL token, and to prompt the user when a cookie's compact policy contains the UNR token. It also specifies downgrading cookies without a compact policy to session cookies, and to accept all cookies that do not match one of the given rules. Note that the first rule that evaluates to true determines the cookie action:
TABLE-US-00005 IE6-P3PSettings/V1: /FIN&CONi=a/ /FIN&CONo=r/ /FIN&CONa= r//FIN&CON=r/ /GOV&PUB=r/ /TEL=r/ /UNR=p/ nopolicy=d /=a/
 Rules are retrieved using the PrivacyGetZonePreferenceW Function. This function retrieves the privacy settings for a given URLZONE and PrivacyType, and has the following format:
TABLE-US-00006 DWORD PrivacyGetZonePreferenceW( DWORD dwZone, DWORD dwType, LPDWORD pdwTemplate, LPWSTR pszBuffer, LPDWORD pdwBufferLength );
 The dwZone parameter specifies the URLZONE for which privacy settings are being retrieved. The dwType parameter specifies the PrivacyType for which privacy settings are being retrieved. The pdwTemplate parameter returns a pointer to a DWORD containing which of the PrivacyTemplates is in use for this dwZone and dwType. The pszBuffer parameter that points to a buffer representing a string version of the pdwTemplate or a customized string if the pdwTemplate is set to PRIVACY_TEMPLATE_CUSTOM, as described above. The pdwBufferLength contains the buffer length in characters. If the buffer length is not sufficient, PrivacyGetZonePreferenceW returns with this parameter set to the number of characters required and with a return value of ERROR_MORE_DATA. The function returns zero if successful or an errorcode.
 Turning to FIG. 4, as described above, cookies can be accessed by HTML interpretation (e.g., via a cookie-related meta set cookie tag). To this end, the internet transport component 210 provides the compact policy and content 400 to the browser interpreter/parser component 222. When such a meta tag is detected, the browser interpreter/parser component 222 sends the set cookie command and the compact policy data, represented as the block 402, back to the internet transport component 210. Other information such as the first or third party context also may be provided. In turn, the cookie jar 246 invokes the evaluation engine 242 (as generally described above in FIG. 3 via HTTP response handling 300) with respect to the privacy mechanism 240. The evaluation engine 242 then specifies an action (e.g., allows, denies, prompts for, leashes or downgrades) the requested cookie-related operation based on the various criteria, e.g., user settings, zone, P3P compact policy, per-site data, type of cookie and so on as described herein. Other cookie-related operations (e.g., replay) occur similarly.
 Cookie operations from script are handled in a similar manner. For example, when cookies are set from script, the same general series of steps is taken in evaluating the cookie operation. The InternetSetCookie API 302 is called directly to set the cookie from the script engine 226. In turn, the InternetSetCookie API 302 calls into the cookie jar 246, which calls into the evaluation engine 242 as appropriate. The extra information 404 needed to make the evaluation is passed with the call, including the P3P compact policy to evaluate for this operation. Also, the first versus third party context of the operation is provided, e.g., as determined previously by the browser interpreter/parser component 222.
 As also represented in FIG. 4, one aspect of the present invention is directed to providing notifications 400 of privacy-related information to applications using the internet transport component 210 platform. In general, any handling of cookies by the internet transport component 210 leads to appropriate notifications provided by the platform to the browser UI 224, (or similarly to applications or other components using the internet transport component 210). These notifications 400 are sent at several different times throughout the processing of the policy, as set forth in the following table:
TABLE-US-00007 NOTIFICATION EXPLANATION INTERNET_STATUS_COOKIE_SENT Sent when a cookie is successfully sent on an HTTP request INTERNET_STATUS_COOKIE_RECEIVED Sent when a cookie is accepted (based on evaluation processing) INTERNET_STATUS_PRIVACY_IMPACTED Sent when a cookie is somehow modified based on privacy evaluation - downgraded, leashed, or rejected, as described below. INTERNET_STATUS_P3P_HEADER Sent when a P3P header is found in the HTTP response INTERNET_STATUS_P3P_POLICYREF Sent when a P3P policy ref is found in the HTTP response
 The received notifications 400 are used by the browser software 200 to populate the various UI elements and to present privacy impact information to the user, as described below. Any P3P header provided by these notifications may be stored, for later use as appropriate, e.g., during script cookie operations. This policy is received and stored from the notifications 400 described above, and reused as necessary when manipulating script cookies.
 As further represented in FIG. 4 as a cached response 408, content may be received from the cache 230 (FIG. 2). In general, extra information (e.g., the prior evaluation result) may be stored in the cache to keep track of privacy related actions taken at HTTP response time. Notifications are generated when content is replayed from the cache, mimicking behavior seen when a real response is seen.
 More particularly, extra processing may be performed when such content 408 is stored in and received from the cache 430, using the information about the state of the cookie handling that is stored along with the cached content. Should such information be present when content is retrieved from the cache instead of the network, an INTERNET_STATUS_COOKIE_HISTORY notification is sent, informing the host of the previous actions taken, including cookies that were accepted, leashed, downgraded, or rejected. This cached information can be used as needed, e.g., to reject a set cookie request that was previously rejected so that the cookie operation determination is consistent with what occurred at the time the response was initially received, handled and cached.
 Also, at cache processing time, the P3P compact policy (which is cached with the content) is reevaluated to regenerate the policy related notifications. In this manner, the host gets a comparable set of notifications whether the content is retrieved over the network connection or from the cache.
 Note that because the compact policy is available from the cache, it is alternatively feasible to perform an entirely new evaluation when cached content is recalled, which may have a different result since user settings or the like may have changed in the interim.
 Turning to an explanation of the operation of the privacy mechanism with particular reference to FIGS. 5-7, the evaluation engine generally executes logic to make its determination based on the above-described criteria. Note that the steps of FIGS. 5-7 are only representative of one way to make such a determination, and that there are many ways to accomplish an evaluation and determination. Further, note that many of the steps shown as being performed in and/or by the evaluation engine can be performed by other components, e.g., a security component can enforce a globally applicable cookie rule before the cookie jar 246 is ever involved and thus can block cookies without needing to invoke the evaluation engine. In any event, it is understood that the evaluation engine and the various operations described in FIGS. 5-7 are but one way to accomplish privacy via local control of cookie operations.
 Before describing the various operations of the evaluation engine, however, it should be noted that cookies may be stored on a machine prior to the privacy mechanism/evaluation engine having been installed and activated on that machine In other words, when such "legacy" cookies exist prior to installation of the privacy mechanism/evaluation engine, web sites may already have some profile information. Such cookies may be suppressed in a third party context, in order to prevent such web sites from continuing to gather information. In order to accomplish this, the privacy mechanism automatically disallows third party replays while allowing first party replays, i.e., the privacy mechanism "leashes" legacy cookies when installed. An exception to this general rule is that "opt-out" cookies are left unleashed, since it is assumed that users that have previously opted out of web site services wish to remain opted out. Such opt-out cookies are of the form "ID=OPT_OUT", although several other opt-out cookies already in use in the industry were also specifically excluded, e.g., "AA002=optout" and "CyberGlobalAnonymous=optout".
 Beginning at step 500 of FIG. 5, the process generally begins when an incoming HTTP response is received. Note that in one preferred implementation, this HTTP response is not a cached response, since in this implementation, with cached responses, any prior cookie evaluation results are also preserved and reused. However, in an alternate implementation described above, since the compact policy data is cached, the operations of FIGS. 5-7 may also be executed on cached data.
 Step 502 represents the testing for the URL query action, that is, the top-level override, which includes looking up the settings for this zone as represented by the input. More particularly, a check URL action comprising a flag that can be queried programmatically can be set to an accept all cookies state, or a reject all cookies state, which map directly to the (e.g., zone-dependent) accept all/reject all privacy levels described above. If set to one of these states, step 502 branches to step 506 to return the accept or reject result.
 A third state of this flag (called "QUERY") allows processing to continue to step 508. Step 508 determines whether the request is to delete a cookie, which is handled as described below with respect to FIG. 7. If not a request to delete, step 508 branches to step 510.
 Step 510 represents evaluating any per-site information, accessed via step 512, e.g., by accessing the per-site database (store or list) 304. At step 510, the per-site store is checked to see if there is an action for this URL. This action could have been set a number of ways, e.g., through the browser UI 224 as described below. An action may also have been set if the browser previously prompted the user for a decision for this URL, and saved the result of the prompt, as also described below. If a previous decision exists, step 510 branches to step 514 to return the previous decision for this cookie. If no previous result exists for this URL, the evaluation process continues to step 518.
 Step 518, via step 520, reads the user preferences from the user preferences database 310. At this time, the user preferences are queried based on the zone, the first versus third party designation, (made at the beginning of the download) and the persistent or session type to which the cookie corresponds. As described above, one type of preference is a constant preference of the form "always=<result>"; if so, the result is returned at this time via step 518 branching to step 522. For example, a restricted zone site's third party, persistent cookie may be set to "always=reject" while a trusted zone site's first party, session cookie may be set to "always=accept." In such an event, the result is simply returned at step 522. Alternatively, if there is no constant preference stored for the particular set of criteria that pertains to this cookie, step 518 branches to step 524.
 Step 524 evaluates whether the site has provided any P3P compact policy in the P3P header 214. Note that sites are not required to provide policy, (however as will be understood, such sites are less likely to get their requested cookie operations allowed). Should no policy be present, a "nopolicy" result (that at least exists by default, and is obtained when the user preferences were previously read at step 520) is returned at step 526. Otherwise, if a policy is present the evaluation process continues to FIG. 6, step 600.
 At step 600, a result variable that tracks the determination result that may ultimately be returned is initialized to the "nopolicy" decision read from the user preferences at step 520. As described below, should no valid tokens and/or corresponding rules be found in the evaluation of the compact policy, this "nopolicy" decision will be the result returned.
 Step 602 represents the starting of the evaluation of the tokens in the compact policy, until none remain to be processed at step 604, which is branched to if at least one token is present. Note that step 604 skips over invalid (e.g., unrecognized) tokens, and thus if no valid tokens are found in the compact policy, the final result is returned which is the "nopolicy" result initialized above, as represented via steps 612 and 614.
 Returning to step 604, for each valid token listed in the compact policy, the user preference rules (read at step 520) are consulted to find a result. For example, the tokens T1 and T4 may have a result of "accept" maintained in the user preference rules for this zone, cookie type criteria, while token T14 of FIG. 2 may have a result of downgrade corresponding thereto in the user settings for the current criteria. The various possible results have a precedence ordering, and the evaluation engine essentially keeps the result that gives the most privacy, with the precedence order comprising reject (highest), downgrade, leash, prompt, or accept (lowest). As can be understood by noting that a higher precedence result at step 606 results in an update to the tracking variable at step 608, this obtaining of the higher precedence (most privacy) result among the tokens is represented via the loop of steps 606, 608 and 610, back to step 602. Thus, in the example of FIG. 2 with tokens T1, T4 and T14 being present in the compact policy, and tokens T1 and T4 being accept, with T14 being downgrade in the user preference settings for this zone and cookie criteria, the updated result ultimately set at step 608 will be to downgrade, via the token T14's corresponding setting. Note that while looping, if any token has a corresponding rule with a result equal to reject, the highest precedence is already known, and there is no point in continuing, whereby step 610 simply ends the evaluation process with the reject result returned via step 626.
 Once the tokens in the compact policy have been processed as determined by step 602, step 612 tests whether at least one valid token existed (such as by setting a flag at step 604). If not, step 612 branches to step 614 to return the initialized, "no policy" result, else step 612 branches to step 620 to consult user preference rules.
 Step 620 looks for rules, e.g., in the form of rules or logical expressions as described above. As represented via steps 620, 622 and 624, for each rule found in the user preferences (read at step 520), the rule is evaluated against the compact policy. Should the rule be applicable (that is, each binary clause in the rule is true for this policy), the result of the rule is returned as the final result. Note that the first rule to apply ends the loop, with its result returned at step 626, although it is feasible to have a precedence-based arrangement (similar to that above) such that the rule with the highest precedence would win. Further, note that should no rules apply at step 624, the result that existed when step 620 was first entered (via step 612) is returned.
 Turning to FIG. 7, deletion of a cookie occurs when a website sets a cookie with an expiration time in the past. Step 7 represents the following rules that apply when deciding whether or not a cookie can be deleted, namely that leashed cookies cannot be deleted from a third party context unless the URL action allows it, with one exception being legacy cookies that were marked as leashed on upgrade. To this end, step 700 via step 702 tests for the global URL action of allow, in which event the delete is allowed at step 710. Step 704 tests for the prevention of deleting of a leashed and third party cookie, (i.e., deletion is otherwise allowed). Step 706 tests for the legacy cookie exception for leashed and third party cookies, thereby preventing deletion, except for legacy cookies.
 Internet Privacy User Interface
 One aspect of the present invention is generally directed to providing privacy to Internet users by handling cookies based on users' privacy settings, which may be default settings provided with the browser code. By the present invention, users are made aware of Internet privacy issues, and also made aware of the fact that cookies can be used to gather data. Further, users are made aware of which sites are part of a page of content being viewed, and/or which sites are attempting cookie-related operations. Note that while privacy via automatic cookie handling is generally provided for sites in the Internet security zone only, there is no reason that privacy via cookie handling cannot be performed in other security zones in a similar manner. Indeed, the present invention provides the ability to handle cookies differently on a per-site basis, and there is no reason to restrict such sites to those in the Internet security zone.
 The present invention also provides default settings for handling cookies at various privacy levels to reasonably protect users' privacy, in accordance with each user's own desired level of privacy. A slider bar is available to change levels of default settings (e.g., block all, high, medium high, medium, low or accept all), or the user can change the default settings and/or individually control the settings for a given web site. To this end, access is provided to at least some of the individual privacy settings, whereby more advanced users or administrators can customize the privacy settings to more particularly control what web sites can and cannot do with cookies on a user's machine.
 In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, FIG. 8 represents a suitable display (e.g., dialog box) 800 that appears the first time a user has a cookie blocked for privacy reasons. Note that similar displays would also be suitable at other times, e.g., the first time that browser code is executed, regardless of whether cookies are blocked. However, providing the display upon blocking a cookie has the advantage of providing a meaningful context to a user based on a current state of browser operation as opposed to a future or past state.
 Thus, in one implementation as represented in FIG. 8, the first time that a user navigates to a web site where at least one cookie action is blocked, the user receives an initial privacy warning dialog 800 that actively explains the cookie-blocking event, and shows a diagram 802 and various text explaining where a privacy status icon 900 (FIG. 9) is shown in the status bar 902 of a browser window 904. This initial privacy warning dialog box (also referred to as a first time privacy user interface) 800 enables a user to learn more about cookies, via a link 804 to a help screen, which may be internal browser/operating system help, or external such as another web site or the like. The user may toggle a checkbox 806 so that the message will or will not be shown again upon selecting the OK button 808 or close [X] button 810. To this end, in one implementation, when a cookie is blocked, the internet transport component 210 (FIG. 2, e.g., wininet.dll) fires a "PrivacyStateImpacted" event, and the registry or the like is checked to see whether this first time privacy user interface 800 has yet been shown and previously dismissed by the user. If not, the dialog 800 is shown.
 The initial privacy dialog box 800 also includes a settings button 812 that takes a user to a privacy settings user interface dialog 1200, described below with reference to FIG. 12. To this end, if the user clicks the "Settings" button 812, the browser launches the privacy settings user interface 1200. Note that as described below, the privacy settings user interface 1200 can be launched in other ways.
 In general, the initial privacy dialog box 800 is an active mechanism related to privacy, and thus has a number of beneficial purposes, including 1) notifying the user of a cookie being blocked, 2) explaining the general concepts of privacy, and 3) explaining the use of a privacy status icon 900 (FIG. 9) to access privacy reports and perform other privacy-related actions. Further, via the settings button 812, the initial privacy dialog box 800 provides one entry point to the privacy settings user interface 1200.
 Once the active mechanism of the initial privacy dialog box 800 is dismissed by the user, the user can control privacy via a passive mechanism, namely a privacy status icon. In this manner, users are not annoyed (unless they choose to be) by privacy issues through a regularly appearing active dialog, but can easily and rapidly handle privacy issues via the passive mechanism.
 FIG. 9 shows a portion (e.g., the lower right corner) of a browser window 904 including the above-mentioned status bar 902 and actual status icon 900 indicating a blocked cookie. In one implementation, the icon generally appears as an "eyeball" accompanied by a "Do Not Enter"-like sign, (which may be red or otherwise appropriately colored to make the icon more noticeable), such as to generally convey the concept of blocking surveillance. In general, whenever a user navigates to a web site that does not provide privacy information that satisfies the user's privacy settings, the cookies are blocked and the privacy status icon 900 is displayed in the browser's status bar 902 to indicate that cookies have been blocked. For example, the browser code can show the privacy status icon 900 upon detecting the PrivacyStateImpacted event fired by the internet transport component 210. As described below, providing the status icon 900 provides a visual indication of the blocking action, as well as a straightforward actuation mechanism (e.g., the user double-clicking the icon) for the user to access the list of sites having missing or unsatisfactory privacy policies.
 FIG. 10 shows a representative privacy report dialog 1000, including some textual reference data 1004 explaining its general purpose. In general, the purposes of the privacy report dialog 1000 include displaying the list 1002 of sites that had privacy protections enforced against that site, or optionally displaying a list of all sites that include content on the present page. As all the sites that form a page of content are known to the browser, a filtering operation can be employed to select only those sites that had privacy protections enforced against them.
 To toggle between views, the privacy report dialog 1000 includes a view selection mechanism 1006, via which the user can toggle between a displayed list 1004 of those sites that make up the currently rendered page that were restricted by having their cookies blocked, or a list of all sites (not separately shown) that make up the currently rendered page. A site column 1008 and cookie column 1010 show the site and its corresponding cookie status, respectively. Note that when viewing all sites, each site may have a "Blocked" cookie indicator, or an "Accepted" cookie indicator, or no cookie-related action and thus no information in the corresponding cookie column. Other information may also be displayed, e.g., distinguishing between session or persistent for an accepted cookie. Indeed, as can be readily appreciated, the ability to view and control actions for individual sites forming a rendered page can be extended to control more than cookie-related/privacy actions. For example, instead of limiting a user to per-domain security, a user could choose to adjust security of selected sites that make up a page, and thereby control things at a more granular level, such as to prevent a third party site from running script, and so on.
 In keeping with the invention, a link 1012 to a help screen or the like, e.g., "Learn more about privacy . . . " is provided to inform the user about privacy issues. A "Settings" button 1014 is provided to take a user to the privacy settings user interface 1200, described below with reference to FIG. 12. Close buttons 1016 and 1018 are also provided.
 To facilitate rapid per-site privacy settings adjustment, a pop-up window 1020 can be made to appear by right-clicking on a selected site, via which the user can select privacy selections for that site by checking (with a subsequent left click) one of the various cookie-handling options for that site. Three mutually exclusive selection options are represented in FIG. 10, Always Accept cookies from this site, Always Reject cookies from this site, or Use default behavior for this site. Handling a site by using "default behavior" is described above with reference to handling a cookie by its type.
 Turning to an explanation of the privacy settings user interface dialog 1200, as generally represented in FIG. 12, in general, the settings dialog 1200 simplifies the many possible privacy settings options, to allow even less-than-experienced users the ability to customize their privacy settings. While providing this ability, the privacy settings dialog 1200 also attempts to explain the impact of any changes to users in simple and clear terms.
 As described above, the user can obtain access to the privacy settings dialog 1200 by actuating the Settings button 812 from the initial privacy warning dialog 800 (FIG. 8), or by actuating the Settings button 1014 of the privacy report dialog 1000 (FIG. 10). In one implementation, the user can also obtain access to the privacy settings dialog 1200 by selecting the "Tools" drop down menu from the browser toolbar line, selecting "Internet Options . . . " from the drop down menu, and clicking the "Privacy" tab 1202. Thus, the privacy settings user interface dialog 1200 is the same user interface as the Internet options . . . Privacy tab selection.
 In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, once the privacy settings dialog 1200 is presented to the user, high level access to the privacy customization functions is available. In keeping with the general theme of avoiding unnecessary complexity, a simplified control is provided at a top level in the form of a slider control 1204. The slider control 1204 automatically selects pre-loaded criteria (default settings) at a selected privacy level to prevent the user from having to make each of the many individual privacy decisions. For example, the slider simplifies the tens of thousands of possible settings and combinations to choosing one of six levels.
 The slider bar 1204 enables the straightforward selection of one of a number of privacy levels, each level providing default privacy settings corresponding to cookie-handling of the various types of cookies. Text next to the control reflects the level of rules selected, and provides a brief description of that level's cookie handling actions. This text is updated as the user moves the slider control 1204. In one implementation, to change the per-level settings for the user in the system, if the user moves the slider bar 1204 and then clicks the "Apply" button 1206 or "OK" button 1208, a batch of rules for the currently selected level are read from a browser-specific location in the system registry or other browser database, and written to the user's registry or the like as that user's privacy rules. A "Cancel" button 1210 is also provided to allow the user to exit the privacy settings dialog 1200 without saving changes.
 Levels include "Accept all cookies," "Low," "Medium," "Medium High," "High," and "No Cookies" (block all cookies), with "Medium" as the default level. Other levels such as "Medium Low" are possible, such as set forth in the example table described below. An example of a "Low" setting may be one that accepts all cookies, replays all cookies including Legacy Cookies, and wherein the per-site list (described below) does not override such rules. The tables below set forth example descriptions for other possible levels of default privacy settings:
 Note that the notion of what makes a cookie "unsatisfactory" is somewhat strengthened for first and third parties in the High setting by also denying cookies with policies that use an `opt-out` attribute.
 Note that the notion of unsatisfactory is somewhat strengthened for Third parties in Medium High by also denying cookies with policies that use the `opt-out` attribute.
TABLE-US-00010 Medium - Default Setting First party context Third party context Persistent cookie No Leash Deny Compact Policy Persistent cookie Downgrade Deny Unsatisfactory Cookie Persistent cookie with Accept Accept other policies Session Cookies Accept Treat same as persistent Legacy Cookies Leash Leash Per Site list overrides? Yes Yes
TABLE-US-00011 Medium Low First party context Third party context Persistent cookie No Leash Downgrade Compact Policy Persistent cookie Accept Downgrade Unsatisfactory Cookie Persistent cookie with Accept Accept other policies Session Cookies Accept Treat same as persistent Legacy Cookies Leash Leash Per site list overrides? Yes Yes
 The following table sets forth example settings for deleting a cookie in the medium settings:
TABLE-US-00012 Cookie Delete in Medium First Third Leashed Change value Typical P3P eval Typical P3P eval Leashed Delete Always allowed invariant No Delete of CP (compact policy) Legacy Delete Always allowed invariant Always allowed leashed of CP invariant of CP Unleashed Change value Typical P3P eval Typical P3P eval Unleashed Delete Always allowed invariant Always allowed of CP invariant of CP
 Delete of legacy leashed cookies is allowed from the third party context invariant of compact policy.
 The privacy settings dialog allows these various default settings to be individually changed, via an "Advanced" button 1212 that takes a user to an advanced privacy settings dialog 1300, described below with respect to FIG. 13. Privacy settings can also be imported via an "Import" button 1214, as described below. Any privacy settings (rules) which do not match the defaults (templates) for the slider levels result in the slider being hidden and the text reading as "custom" settings with descriptive text that indicates custom user settings.
 However, when any customized changes are made, including by moving the slider bar 1204 from its default level of medium, the privacy settings dialog 1200 enables a "Default" button 1216. When enabled and actuated, the Default button 1210 restores any customized privacy settings browser to the default privacy settings corresponding to the slider bar's Medium level, re-displays the slider bar 1204 and accompanying descriptive text at the Medium level, and disables (grays out) the Default button. In one implementation, to accomplish the settings restoration in the system, if the user clicks the Default button 1216, and (without making later changes) thereafter clicks the "Apply" button 1206 or "OK" button 1208, the batch of rules for the Medium level are read from a location in the registry and written to the user's registry as that user's privacy rules. For efficiency, rewriting may be deemed unnecessary when the user starts at the Medium level, varies from it, but has not yet accept (by the Apply button 1206 or OK button 1208) before actuating the Default button 1216 to restore the settings. This is because until changes that vary from the medium level are accepted, the Medium level settings remain in the user's appropriate registry location, and thus need not actually be restored.
 FIG. 13 provides a representation of a suitable advanced privacy settings dialog 1300, which appears when the user clicks on the Advanced button 1212. Advanced settings enable the user to control first and third party cookies explicitly, and to treat session cookies as special cases.
 When the advanced privacy settings dialog 1300 is selected, as represented in FIG. 13, the user is presented with advanced options in the form of radio buttons 1302 and 1304 corresponding to handling rules for first and third party cookies, respectively. To enable these radio buttons, an "Override" checkbox 1306 needs to be checked, wherein the Override checkbox informs the user that the user is actually overriding automatic cookie handling.
 An "Always allow session cookies" checkbox 1308 is also provided to give the user more flexibility in cookie handling choices. Note that since session cookies only last for a single instance of browser execution, session cookies cannot easily be used to build a record of a user's browsing habits. Consequently, via the checkbox 1308, users can choose to allow session cookies, regardless of the first or third party context of the cookies and the corresponding settings of the first and third party radio buttons 1302 and 1304.
 One of the radio buttons for first and third party cookies is for receiving a Prompt dialog 1500 (FIG. 15A) whenever a certain type (first or third party, non-session) of cookie is detected. As described above, a prompt allows a user to selectively control each cookie, before it is set by a site.
 Once the user sets the advanced setting to prompt, each time thereafter that that type of cookie is served, the cookie prompt appears when a cookie is sent to the server with an HTTP request. In one implementation, the internet transport component 210 detects the type of cookie, reads the user's privacy rule from the user's registry indicating that the system should prompt on this type of cookie, and fires the prompt dialog 1500 dialog to decide on writing the cookie.
 The prompt dialog 1500 provides an "Allow Cookie" button 1502 and "Block Cookie" button 1504, which provides the user with very granular control over which cookies are being sent and which are suppressed. The user's preference can be recorded in the registry via a checkbox 1506 so that the user's decision is remembered.
 Returning to FIG. 12, the privacy settings dialog 1200 also provides an "Edit" button 1218 in a "Web Sites" area 1220. The Edit button 1218 provides viewing and editing access to a per-site list, wherein cookie handling may be overridden for individual web sites. In one implementation, the browser records preferences for particular sites to as part of the user's privacy rules in the registry, whereby the internet transport component 210 can appropriately handle cookies from those sites as described above.
 In general, when the user clicks the "Edit" button 1218, the list of sites which have special rules for how cookies are handled outside of the P3P Rules or advanced settings is displayed. More particularly, as represented in FIG. 14, when selected, a per-site privacy actions dialog 1400 is presented to the user. The per-site dialog 1400 provides a typing area 1402 for entering the address of a web site, and when a site is entered, a "Block" button 1404 and "Allow" button 1406 enable the user to specify whether to block or allow cookies from the domain corresponding to that site. When the Block button 1404 or Allow button 1406 is clicked, the site's domain is entered into a displayed list area 1408, which also displays the blocked or allowed status setting for that domain. Although only the domain and setting information is shown in FIG. 14, it is understood that other information may also be displayed. The list may have sites removed from it by a "Remove All" button 1412, or by individually removing selected sites (e.g., selected via a left click) by clicking a "Remove" button 1416. The per-site dialog 1400 is closed in a conventional manner, via an OK button 1414 or via the close window [X] button 1416.
 Returning to FIG. 12, for more advanced users, the privacy settings dialog of FIG. 12 allows users to import settings, via the Import button 1214. The importing of preferences for handling of cookies may be based on a list of sites, or specific privacy practices (e.g., as defined by the P3P standard). To this end, when the user clicks the import button 1214, the user is prompted (not shown) for the location of a privacy settings file. The user chooses a file in a conventional manner, and receives a simple confirmation dialog when the file is successfully imported.
 In one implementation, the internet transport component 210 (e.g., wininet.dll provides an API that accepts well-formed Privacy setting XML files and records the described settings as the user's privacy rules in the registry. More particularly, an ImportPrivacySettings function is provided to process and import an Extensible Markup Language (XML) file that contains the customized privacy preferences, such as using the XML elements defined below:
TABLE-US-00013 XML Element Definition alwaysReplayLegacy Specifies to always replay legacy cookies. if_policy_cookieaction Specifies a rule describing how to act on a cookie based on its compact policy firstparty Specifies rules for first-party cookies. flushCookies Specifies that all cookies be deleted when custom settings are loaded. flushSiteList Specifies that the privacy per-site list be deleted when custom settings are loaded. MSIEPrivacy Specifies custom privacy settings. MSIEPrivacySettings Specifies custom privacy settings as a function of security zone, Web page context (first-party vs. third-party), type (session vs. persistent cookie) and the content of a cookie's Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) compact policy. MSIESiteRules Specifies privacy per-site rules for cookies. p3pCookiePolicy Specifies how to handle cookies based on the P3P compact policy. site Specifies the per-site rules for a Web site. thirdparty Specifies rules for third-party cookies.
 Preferences that exist in the registry may also be exported to an XML file for applying those settings to another computer. In one implementation, an application program or the like may use a Privacy settings export API to generate the settings file with the current privacy preferences for that install of the browser. To this end, the Export API reads the settings from the registry, and maps those back to XML formatted privacy settings.
 Turning to an explanation of the operation of the present invention, and by way of summary, FIG. 16 generally shows the operation of the browser components beginning at step 1600 when a privacy impact event is received. Step 1602 tests whether the first time privacy user interface 800 (FIG. 8) has been dismissed by the user, that is, whether it had been previously displayed to the user and the user had requested via checkbox 806 that the first time privacy user interface 800 not be shown again. If not dismissed, the process branches to step 1604 to present the user with the first time privacy user interface 800, otherwise step 1602 skips the display thereof by branching ahead to step 1606, which represents the display of the privacy icon 900 (FIG. 9).
 As described above, when the user is presented with the first time privacy user interface 800 (step 1604), the user can exit it, whereby step 1606 represents the displaying of the privacy icon. Alternatively, the user can request help, as represented by step 1608, or can select the Settings button 812, which will take the user to the privacy settings dialog 1200, described below with reference to FIG. 18.
 FIG. 17 generally represents the privacy report dialog 1000 that appears when the user selects (double-clicks) the privacy icon 900 at step 1606. Step 1700 represents the displaying of the privacy report 1000, which may include accessing privacy actions for the current site at step 1702, from the per-site database 304 (FIG. 3), such as in the user's registry. As described above, the user can right click a listed site and select a preference (e.g., via the pop-up display 1020 of FIG. 10) for handling cookies from that site. The preference is then stored (step 1706) for that user's per-site preference settings, such as in the per-site database 304.
 A user may also select any listed site (represented as Sitel-SiteN) and elect to view that site's summary, as represented by steps 1708-1710, which may include displaying the verbose policy for that site, as represented by respective steps 1712-1714. With the display of the summary (e.g., 1100 of FIG. 11), the user is presented with radio buttons (e.g., 1106 in FIG. 11) to control cookie-handling of the selected site. The radio button settings are stored (step 1706) in the appropriate user's per-site database 304.
 FIG. 18 generally represents some of the operations corresponding to the privacy settings dialog 1200 of FIG. 12, beginning at step 1800 where the dialog is displayed. As described above with reference to FIG. 12, a user can use a slider bar 1204 (if it is currently appearing) to select among default levels of settings, as represented by step 1802 which accesses the privacy preferences store 310 (e.g., the appropriate registry locations for the user's privacy settings) to read and write the settings as needed.
 As also described above, the user can edit per site selections via an Edit button, labeled 1218 in FIG. 12, which corresponds to step 1804. Step 1804 allows the user to edit sites via step 1808, which adjusts the per-site cookie settings in the per-site database 304. Note that step 1808 is essentially the same as step 1706 described above, as generally represented by part of FIG. 17 (indicated by the surrounding dashed box) being reproduced in FIG. 18.
 A user can also used the advanced button 1212 for controlling first and third party cookies, which corresponds to step 1806 in FIG. 18. As described above, the advanced button enables the overriding of default settings, by writing the changes via step 1802 into the preferences store 310.
 As can be seen from the foregoing detailed description, users greatly benefit in privacy from the ability to control the operations on cookies on their computers in a manner that is efficient, flexible and intuitive, yet handles the considerable variety of cookie types and sources. The present invention handles cookie-related privacy issues for users of any level of sophistication.
 While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof are shown in the drawings and have been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Cem Paya, Seattle, WA US
Patent applications by Darren Mitchell, Woodinville, WA US
Patent applications by Roberto A. Franco, Seattle, WA US
Patent applications by Microsoft Corporation
Patent applications in class Based on stored usage or user profile (e.g., frequency of use, cookies)
Patent applications in all subclasses Based on stored usage or user profile (e.g., frequency of use, cookies)