W3C Announces Work on 'Do Not Track' Standard This year, almost every browser implemented a "do not track"  feature, prompted by privacy-conscious consumers and the Do Not Track list proposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Now the concept is gaining even more support. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced a standardization effort for user web privacy.

A Little Privacy, Please

Increasing parts of our daily lives transpire inside of a browser; the data left behind by those interactions are able to paint ever-more-accurate digital pictures of who we are, what we like, what we do and whom we like. Not surprisingly, many people don’t want all of those details floating around.

The W3C wants to give users more control over exactly what information they share. The new Tracking Protection Working Group, which is part of the larger W3C privacy activity, is tasked with creating a standard that allows users to define preferences for web tracking, which parties can track them online and blocking or allowing web tracking elements. In addition, the working group may also specify a process to monitor implementation and conformance to the Do Not Track standard.

The working group hopes to build a broad consensus for the Do Not Track standard among browser vendors, content providers, online advertisers, search engines and industry privacy and consumer protection experts; consensus is important because it’s the only way the standard will gain widespread adoption. The team is starting in a good position. In April, a Web Tracking and User Privacy workshop was held by the W3C and sponsored by industry leaders:

  • Adobe
  • Yahoo!
  • Google
  • Mozilla
  • Microsoft

Those groups will likely continue to have input in development of the standard. In fact, one of the chairs for the group is from Mozilla. The Tracking and Protection Working Group will work closely with other W3C groups such as the Privacy Interest Group, Internationalization Activity Group and Device APIs and Policy Working Group.

What’s Next for the Working Group

The first meeting for the newly created group will occur via telephone on September 14 and be followed by a two-day face-to-face meeting on September 21. According to the charter for the group, the Do Not Track standard is scheduled for publication to recommend status in June 2012, which is light-speed for a standards organization.