W3C publishes first drafts of the 'do not track' Web standard

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Wednesday published its first two drafts for online privacy and tracking standards: the Tracking Preference Expression, which is a definition of the HTTP request header field "DNT" for expressing tracking on the Web; and Tracking Compliance and Scope, which defines the terminology of tracking preferences and scope in the DNT expression, and lays out ways that websites can comply with it.

These standards will let users set more universal preferences about whether or not their browsing data can be collected for tracking and advertising purposes. The W3C says this will help to re-establish trust between users and service providers in the marketplace.

They also will define new mechanisms for sites to disclose how they are honoring the users' preferences, and new ways for users to grant exceptions for specific sites with which they're comfortable sharing their data.


"None of the participants in this Web of customization and targeted advertising want to offend the user. For advertisers, it is counterproductive. For Web site owners, it drives away their audience and income. For advertising networks, it leads to blocking and lost advertisers," the DNT draft says. "Therefore, we need a mechanism for the user to express their own preference regarding cross-site tracking that is both simple to configure and efficient when implemented. Likewise, since some Web sites may be dependent on the revenue obtained from targeted advertising and unwilling (or unable) to permit use of their content without cross-site data collection, we need a mechanism for sites to alert the user to those requirements and allow the user to configure an exception to DNT for specific sites."

These draft standards are being edited by representatives from Adobe, Google, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Tracking Protection Working Group includes 23 companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Apple Inc, BlueCava, Deutsche Telekom AG, Effective Measure International, ESOMAR World Association for Social, Market and Opinion Research, Facebook, Future of Privacy Forum, IAB Europe, IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla Foundation, The Nielsen Company, Online Publishers Association, Opera Software, Stanford University, TRUSTe, The Walt Disney Company, W3C and Yahoo! Inc.

These preferences are broadly based upon privacy mechanisms from IE9 that Microsoft submitted to the W3C last February.

Image: Kentoh/Shutterstock

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