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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, USA -- June 11, 1997 -- Speaking at the US Federal Trade Commission Public Workshop on Consumer Online Privacy, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), publicly announced the new W3C Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3) Project. "Web technology has suddenly made the privacy issue critical by providing at the same time a wealth of new threats and a wealth of new solutions," said Berners-Lee, "P3 is a platform on which other technical, market and regulatory solutions can interoperate and build. These solutions should in turn encourage global Web commerce and promote the Web as a place where users feel confident that their privacy expectations are being met." In the P3 Project, W3C Members will work together to complete the P3 specifications.
The W3C's presentation included a demonstration of a P3 prototype, which allows websites to easily describe their privacy practices as well as users to set policies about the collection and use of their personal data. Between the website's practices and the user's preferences, a flexible "negotiation" allows services to offer the preferred level of service and data protection to the user. If there is a match, access to the site is seamless; otherwise the user is notified of the difference and is offered other access options to proceed. "Consumers are very concerned about Internet privacy issues, and the Platform for Privacy Preferences will provide individuals the control they want regarding the use and disclosure of personal information," explained Dr. Lorrie Cranor of the Public Policy Research Department at AT&T Labs.
A useful capability of P3 is the ability for users to download "recommended" settings established by organizations such as industry associations and consumer advocacy groups. This feature results in an enhanced Web experience, with reduced complexity. "Creating tools that effectively address the needs of Internet users is essential as the Internet matures into a ubiquitous medium. IBM is committed to working with the W3C and the Internet community to make this happen," said John Patrick, Vice President of Internet Technology at IBM.
John Ludwig, Vice President of Internet Client and Collaboration Division at Microsoft, stated, "Microsoft supports P3 because its unites a community of vendors in solving problems regarding privacy and user data. Microsoft has a strong tradition of protecting its customers' privacy and we are excited to continue that tradition with P3."
"Netscape is working to protect the personal privacy of consumers while enhancing the quality of Internet services available to them," said Martin Haeberli, Director of Technology at Netscape, "consequently, we are looking forward to working with the W3C and contributing towards the P3 project."
Significant interest in P3 exists outside the software development community as well. "Reputable businesses want to cultivate the trust of consumers because that is good business," said H. Robert Wientzen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Direct Marketing Association. "That is why P3 is so important. It should provide the best means possible to respect individual choice about privacy, while allowing marketers the freedom to market intelligently on the Web."
In the privacy arena, W3C has been working with the Internet Privacy Working Group (IPWG) to develop a "vocabulary" that can be used by P3 to communicate privacy policies. Jerry Berman, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology and IPWG Coordinator, stated that "the P3 platform is a significant opportunity to protect consumer privacy on the global Internet because it will embed fair information practices of 'notice' and 'consent' into the Web Infrastructure." The role of CDT and IPWG, explained Berman, is "to flesh out the fair information principles and practices that the technology needs to support and work with Internet stakeholders to get the P3 platform widely implemented."
The initial joint meetings of the P3 Working and Interest Groups will take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts later this month.
The W3C was created to develop common protocols that enhance the interoperability and promote the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users; sample code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date over 175 organizations are Members of the Consortium.
For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see http://www.w3.org/
Now in its third decade, MIT LCS is dedicated to the invention, development and understanding of information technologies expected to drive substantial technical and socio-economic change. The LCS has helped information technology grow from a mere curiosity to 10 percent of the industrial world's economies by its pioneering efforts in interactive computing, computer networking, distributed systems and public key cryptography. LCS members and alumni have started some thirty companies and have pioneered the Nubus, the X-Window System, the RSA algorithm, the Ethernet and spreadsheets.
For more information about the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, see http://www.lcs.mit.edu/
INRIA, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, is a public-sector scientific institute charged with conducting both fundamental and applied research, and with transferring research results to industry. INRIA is made up of five Research Units located at Rocquencourt (near Paris), Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Nancy and Grenoble. Areas of current research include information processing, advanced high speed networking, structured documents, and scientific computation.
For more information about INRIA, see http://www.inria.fr/
Keio University is one of Japan's foremost computer science research centers and universities. It is one of the oldest private universities in Japan, and has five major campuses around Tokyo. Keio University has been promoting joint research projects in cooperation with industry, government and international organizations, and is now becoming one of the research leaders for network and digital media technology.
For more information on Keio University, see http://www.keio.ac.jp/
For information on P3 in particular, see http://www.w3.org/Privacy/