NEW YORK CITY: Hearing the distant rumble of government horses, Microsoft and Netscape have (gasp) joined forces to protect Web users' online privacy. Users are bristling about the use of a technology called "cookies" that tracks surfing habits to create a demographic profile prized by advertisers. Recent FTC online privacy hearings have put the fear of Big Government into industry leaders. "Despite their rivalry, Microsoft and Netscape share the desire to grow the market," says TIME's David Jackson, "and it makes sense for them to join together to assuage people's concerns early on. If they don't, people just aren't going to use some of these technologies." A new software the two companies will jointly produce should allow users to choose which information websites can learn about them. But since both Netscape and Microsoft are counting on advertising revenue to fuel their growth, putting them in charge of your privacy could be a Faustian bargain indeed.