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26 Apr, 2023
2 min time to read

Until this privacy issue is resolved, it may be advisable to deactivate Edge's "follow creator" functionality.

Last week, a group of Reddit users discovered that Microsoft's Edge browser was sending URLs visited by users to its Bing API website. This raised concerns over user privacy, as the URLs of almost every page visited by users were being sent to Bing, including sites they may have visited by mistake or for personal reasons. Microsoft is currently investigating the issue, but has yet to provide a detailed explanation of why Edge is configured to send nearly all of the sites visited by users over to Bing.

Upon investigation, it was discovered that the creator follow feature in Edge is responsible for the URLs being sent to Bing. This feature was designed to let users follow their favorite content creators on YouTube and across the web. However, it appears that the feature is not functioning correctly, and is sending URLs of almost every site visited by users to Bing. Microsoft had been testing this feature for some time before rolling it out more broadly in recent months.

Rafael Rivera, a software engineer and one of the developers behind EarTrumpet, has explained that the intent of the feature was to notify Bing when users are on certain pages, such as YouTube, The Verge, and Reddit. However, the feature is poorly implemented, and is sending URLs of almost every domain visited by users to Bing. Rivera further explained that Microsoft has a master filter for this feature, which blocks certain URLs from being sent to Bing, such as those for Pornhub. However, for every previously unchecked URL visited by users, the browser passes it to bingapis.com, causing significant privacy implications, especially when this functionality is enabled by default.

Microsoft has acknowledged the reports and is investigating the issue. Caitlin Roulston, director of communications at Microsoft, stated that appropriate action will be taken to address any issues found. In the meantime, it is recommended that users disable the "follow creators" feature in Edge to prevent URLs from being sent to Bing. This can be done by navigating to Settings, choosing the Privacy, Search and Services tab, and toggling off the switch beside Show suggestions to follow creators in Microsoft Edge. It is important to note that users may not have been aware of this feature's existence, and it may not be one they are likely to miss.