Tracking Protection Working Group — Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Tracking Protection Working Group?

The Tracking Protection Working Group is a group of interested parties hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium that seeks to standardize technologies to improve online privacy by enabling user's to express a preference around tracking and selectively filter tracking elements. In particular, the Group is standardizing technical mechanisms and server-side compliance for Do Not Track. The Working Group is made up of representatives from Member companies and Invited Experts who volunteer their time to debate and define detailed technical standards.

I want to get involved. Which group is right for me?

There are three relevant groups at the W3C that may be of interest and provide different participation options:

  • Tracking Protection Working Group: the Working Group defines the standards themselves. Participation takes considerable time and expertise. Those with a financial interest in the work are expected to join the Consortium and pay annual dues; public interest participants may apply for Invited Expert status.
  • Do Not Track Community Group: the Community Group is a lighter weight companion to the Working Group, consisting mostly of consumer and privacy advocacy groups, who will review and provide input to the Working Group. Participation is free and low commitment.
  • Ad Ops Speaks on DNT Community Group: the Ad Ops Community Group is a lighter weight companion to the Working Group, consisting mostly of smaller companies involved in online publishing, ad delivery and operations; the group plans to discuss and provide input to the Working Group. Participation is free and low commitment.
  • Privacy Interest Group: the Privacy Interest Group is the appropriate W3C venue to discuss general Web privacy issues and best practices for ensuring privacy across different Web standards. Discussion is welcome on the public-privacy mailing list or on monthly teleconferences.

What are the participation options for the Working Group?

Participation takes considerable time and expertise — participants are expected to follow a high-traffic mailing list, join weekly 90 minute phone calls and travel to face-to-face meetings every few months. Those with a financial interest in the work are expected to join the Consortium and pay annual dues; public interest participants may apply for Invited Expert status (no dues required) if they bring a valuable viewpoint but cannot afford dues.

The Working Group does its work in public. All mailing list discussions are publicly-archived and public comments are welcome on the list. Detailed minutes of every teleconference and face-to-face meeting are publicly available and are linked from the group home page. Face-to-face meetings are announced several weeks in advance and the chairs often allow interested members of the public as Observers (please contact the chairs in advance).

How do I join the mailing list?

TPWG discussions are conducted and announcements made on public mailing lists. The primary mailing list for the TPWG is public-tracking@w3.org; anyone may subscribe and all messages are permanently, publicly archived. You may also subscribe to the public-tracking-announce list in order to see just larger announcements about meetings held or closing of issues. The Global Considerations Task Force (a sub-group) uses the public-tracking-international list for its discussions. Finally, if you want to see changes the editors make to the group's drafts, the public-tracking-commit list provides an archive of line-by-line changes.

How do I participate in a teleconference?

Weekly teleconferences are listed on the group home page. Participants are encouraged to both call in to the teleconference bridge and to join the accompanying IRC channel (though we recognize that not everyone will always be able to join on both phone and IRC every week).

The IRC channel is used to take minutes — everyone in the group is expected to take turns scribing a meeting — and also enables queue management and sharing of links. If you're not familiar with IRC (many non-geeks are not), don't worry, it's easy! Dedicated clients are available for many platforms and you can also join via the Web interface. Configuration details for our IRC channel:

  • Server: irc.w3.org
  • Username: [whatever you pick, ideally your name]
  • Port: 6667 or 6665
  • Channel: #dnt

When you join on the phone and on IRC, please identify your phone number to Zakim, our friendly IRC bot, with the syntax, "Zakim, xxxx is username" where xxxx is the letters Zakim assigned to your phone number and username is your IRC username. You can only store a mapping between your phone number and IRC handle in Zakim's database to make this connection automatically. (If necessary, you may also email Nick ahead of time with your phone number.) If your phone number is not identified, you will be dropped from the teleconference.

Documentation for Zakim and scribing is available.

Who's in the Working Group?

A public list of the participants is available and automatically updated. Participants represent several Web browser vendors, online advertising and analytics companies, content publishers, consumer advocacy organizations, academic institutions and regulatory agencies from multiple continents. Peter Swire (Ohio State University) and Matthias Schunter (Intel) co-chair the group. Nick Doty (W3C, also affiliated with UC Berkeley) is the Team Contact.

How does the group make decisions?

W3C Working Groups make decisions via consensus. In this context, consensus does not require unanimity, but majority votes are a last resort. The chairs are responsible for determining and recording consensus. For more information, please consult the W3C Process document. The chairs have indicated that they intend to avoid votes and may issue a call for objections where discussion is blocked. Consensus and votes are determined among the formal Participants, though public comments are always considered.

What issues has the group already considered? What issues are actively under consideration now?

The Issue Tracker (visible to the public) is used to track issues and action items for the group. Raised issues have been surfaced in the group but not yet decided; open issues are currently identified by the chairs as actively under discussion and closed issues are resolved. Participants and the public are encouraged to raise any new issues sooner rather than later. Documents published by the group will regularly refer to (and link to) relevant issues in the Issue Tracker.

I'm new to the group and want to re-open an issue the group already decided. May I?

The chairs may re-open issues if a participant brings information not previously considered by the group, and proposes a concrete alternative to the recorded decision that takes this information into account. "I don't like this decision" is not a sufficient reason to re-open an issue. To ensure productive conversation, please review the email thread linked to a particular issue and search the mailing list for related discussions before re-raising an issue.

As of September 2012, the group has been focusing on issues around permitted uses.

When did the group start? When will it end?

The Working Group was formed in September 2011 and originally chartered through July 2012. After a second extension of its charter, the group is currently driving towards Last Call by this summer. The schedule of milestones is updated occasionally on the group home page.

How does the W3C legally enforce standards?

In short, it doesn't. The W3C is not a regulator and no company (even a Member company participating in the Working Group) has a legal obligation to implement or conform to a standard published by the W3C. The Working Group may publish guides or test suites that can help determine whether an implementation conforms to a particular specification. Organizations that claim to conform to or comply with a particular specification may be bound by legal requirements depending on jurisdiction. Standards should not be interpreted as legal advice.

I'm a journalist and I'd like to write a story about the Tracking Protection Working Group. Whom should I contact?

We're happy to help answer questions. Please contact Ian Jacobs, Head of W3C Marketing and Communications.