W3C

A Time for Compromise on Do Not Track

We last blogged about the Tracking Protection Working Group in June, immediately after the group’s face-to-face meeting in Bellevue. That meeting was productive and laid the ground work for further progress. The “Tracking Preference Expression” (DNT) header is now implemented in shipping versions of Firefox, Opera, and Safari, and in preliminary implementations of Internet Explorer. Participation in the group includes browser vendors and large Web properties, associations and practitioners from the advertising and analytics businesses, academics, consumer advocates and representatives of key regulatory agencies from the EU and the US. The media has covered the group’s activities extensively and in detail.

Additionally, W3C is preparing a Workshop to chart next steps for W3C’s work on Web privacy and tracking for the fall of 2012. This workshop will also be an opportunity to share lessons learned implementing Do Not Track, evaluations of its impact, and to provide input into the group’s high-level direction. We expect to announce the workshop officially in the near future.

There has been a lot of progress, but the Working Group is not done. It faces the important challenge of finding a consensus on what it means to comply with a Do Not Track preference.

The group has explored the solution space thoroughly and considered (but not adopted) several proposals. Compromise will be necessary to make progress, and we are driving to reach a compromise among the participants during the fall. The participants know they need a standard for the Web, and that a standard they agree upon is much preferred to alternatives that seriously damage either business interests or the online privacy needs of individuals around the world.

Today, W3C has extended the group’s charter through the end of 2012. Now is the time for the participants of the Tracking Protection Working Group to step up, and forge a consensus that will serve all interests and the long-term health of the Web.

2 thoughts on “A Time for Compromise on Do Not Track

  1. I appreciate that much of the web is now used for commercial purposes (I make my living accordingly) but I have to say, I feel that the W3C should err on the side of caution as relates to privacy. The U.S. (where I live) as a whole has bowed to the interests of commerce over human rights and as more and more information is collected it creates an immense probability of abuse at some point if there aren’t strict standards for privacy. I hope the W3C acts accordingly; the rights of individuals should trump that of business in any instance where there is a conflict.

    Thanks for your work on this topic.

  2. I agree with Adam Powell, the right to privacy on the internet and www, have not met with most peoples expectations. The technology is not keeping up with the legal requirements to safeguard our human rights. Why we still have little ability to prevent spam mail is beyond most, regardless of the holy grail of having an “open WWW network”. The fact that anything can be encrypted or digitised admittedly is a major problem, so maybe the answer isn’t where we are looking.
    In the meantime, until a “solution” is found, surely the ability to “zap” a link between two known sources of computers/devices for a nominated period of time, so as spam cannot be sent between the two, would provide some relief from spamming. Even if someones pc/device etc. has been “taken-over” to be used as a spamming device, then at least you would know and have the right/option to contact your ISP provider and arrange with them to “block-back-to-the-source” for short periods of time, or block “key words” or “key-word-phrases” etc. for nominated periods of time, to alleviate spamming. ISP’s could then dump these incoming spam messages and make a decision about whether they want “known sources” using their network to send spam. It may close down some interaction on the WWW to some extent, but chances are, those two pc’s/devices were never going to talk to each other in their lifetime anyway, unless spammers used their identity.

    Footnote: The Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountant’s (CPA’s)ran an article in 2011 (not sure which month), which looked at the use of “nano” application technology to thwart security issues. Let’s hope this provides a workable solution as we head towards the cloud computing database future, which will add a 3 dimensional aspect to the digitised world we have created for ourselves.

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