NEWS15 November 2011

Web consortium publishes draft do-not-track standards

Data analytics North America

US— The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has published draft standards for a do-not-track mechanism that it hopes will become official by mid-2012.

The proposed mechanism is covered in technical detail here and here, but broadly it seems to lay the groundwork for two-way communication between web user and site owner.

Under the proposals, web users would able to express a preference whether or not data about them can be collected for tracking purposes, while sites signal to users whether and how they honour this preference. Users also get the option to grant site-specific exemptions to their do-not-track preferences.

“Smarter commerce and marketing strategies can and must coexist with respect for individual privacy,” said IBM Research’s Matthias Schunter, co-chair of the W3C tracking working group. “Open standards that help design privacy into the fabric of how business and society use the web can enable trust in a sustainable manner.”

In the comment period that led up the publication of the W3C standards, research industry representatives Esomar and Casro wrote to express their conditional support for do-not-track proposals, provided that legitimate research activities were excluded from rules designed to prevent tracking for targeted advertising purposes.