Microsoft Clarifies Misleading NZ Herald Article
Microsoft Says Customer Privacy Is Priority and Sensationalist Allegation Not True
Auckland, New Zealand - Tuesday, August 21, 2001 - Microsoft New Zealand says the New Zealand Herald front page article on Microsoft® Internet Explorer on 21 August 2001 is misleading, and assures customers that their privacy is a top priority. The company advises the Index.dat file referred to in the story is not a sinister spy file as the NZ Herald asserts and cannot be readily accessed via a website. It can only be accessed by a user with local access to the personal computer.
Microsoft advises customers with concerns about the local caching feature in Internet Explorer to call Microsoft Customer Services on 09-3575576.
Terry Allen, Microsoft New Zealand's Technical Marketing Manager, says that Internet Explorer has been designed to offer computer users a fast and compelling web browsing experience, and like other browsing technologies available today makes use of a local caching system.
"Local caching is a documented feature in Internet Explorer that gives users the ability to bring up sites quickly from a local cache rather than retrieving them from the web," says Allen. "Index.dat does not allow Microsoft or other third parties to retrieve PC users' web content."
"There are numerous unfounded conspiracy theories on the web which are completely untrue and it is irresponsible for people to propagate such stories without understanding the value of the Index.dat file."
Allen says that contrary to the New Zealand Herald story, cached pages stored by Internet Explorer can be deleted. It does not, however, blank the Index.dat file. Instead, after the cache has been cleared, Index.dat is gradually overwritten with new entries.
Background on Local Caching
Whenever a user visits a webpage, a copy of it is saved locally on their personal computer so that when the user revisits that web page, their browser doesn't have to download the content again, but just retrieve it from the local cache. All mainstream browsers have this feature to enable a fast and compelling web browsing experience.
Background on Index.dat
Index.dat is simply an index that allows Windows to find files faster. Index.dat is not content, and is only an index to the content in the cache system. It only contains the names of files that have been stored in the Temporary Internet Files folder but not the files themselves. If a user clears the browser cache, they will not be able to read web-based email without logging into the email account again.
As a system file, Index.dat is hidden and cannot be readily accessed. In addition, the folder containing the actual cached pages is difficult to find as every user's machine has a uniquely named cache folder. Index.dat cannot be accessed via a website and can only be accessed by a user with local access to the PC.
The Index.dat file is a documented feature of the Internet Explorer security architecture. This architecture is designed to prevent hostile web sites from being able to find content on the user's computer.
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