In late April, W3C held a workshop on Web Tracking and User Privacy and we’ve since had follow-up discussions with W3C Members, workshop participants and other stakeholders. From those discussions, the staff is confident that there is broad support for specification work on both Tracking Protection Lists — a tool for selectively blocking or allowing Web tracking elements — and Tracking Preference Expression or Do Not Track — a technology to allow users to express their wishes about being tracked on the Web. Furthermore, there is broad interest in also working towards consensus on the definition of tracking: what is it that a user setting “Do Not Track” asks for, and how do sites comply with such a request?
We believe that the W3C provides a mature, neutral and open process, engagement with a broad group of stakeholders and the necessary resources and expertise to provide a successful venue for this work. No process like this can succeed without multi-stakeholder involvement, including browser vendors, online advertisers, consumer protection advocates and regulatory agencies. In order to encourage participation at different levels and from different parties, we expect to include all of the following:
- open participation on mailing lists
- invitations to a range of experts already engaged in the process
- use of the soon-to-launch Business Group program for staff-coordinated input to the working group
- public workshops to seek involvement from the wider community
International participation also plays a vital role. W3C takes the first two W’s of its name seriously: Web tracking is a concern across national boundaries and solutions should work in a coordinated fashion across US, EU and other jurisdictions. Indeed, today W3C’s Rigo Wenning is speaking at an Online Tracking Protection event in Brussels (a follow-up to one in Berkeley, California in February) and we expect discussion of cross-jurisdictional issues to be a hot topic there.
What are the next steps for tracking protection at the W3C? We will make a draft charter for a Tracking Protection Working Group public within a week to invite further feedback and, with approval from the Membership, we expect that official work will begin no later than August. We’re excited that W3C can provide a neutral forum for open standardization in this area, with the promise of improved privacy on the Web.