NEWS25 February 2011

Web consortium to investigate tracking protection standard

Data analytics

GLOBAL— The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) is to kick-off a debate around the creation of a universal standard and mechanism to allow web users to stop companies tracking their online behaviour.

The starting points for talks, due to begin with a workshop at Princeton University in April, is a proposal from Microsoft for a two-pronged approach that involves both the creation of lists on which users can specify which third-party servers they want to block or allow, as well as a global ‘do not track user preference’ expressed via an HTTP header.

Microsoft’s list idea has already made its way into the latest version of its Internet Explorer browser, IE9, while other browser companies, including Mozilla, are looking at using the header approach to restrict tracking.

Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president for Internet Explorer, said in a blog post: “The privacy concerns from consumers and academics and governments worldwide have both technical and non-technical aspects. Addressing these concerns will involve technology. The W3C’s involvement provides the best forum possible for that technology discussion.”

W3C is headed by Tim Berners-Lee (pictured), inventor of the worldwide web. The consortium defines its primary activity as developing protocols and guidelines to ensure the long-term growth of the web.