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15 November 2011, 16:31

"Do not track" privacy standards drafted by W3C

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W3C logo The W3C has announced the publication of drafts of the Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) and Tracking Compliance and Scope standards. The drafts aim to establish standards for how a user can express their wish not to be tracked and how web sites should interpret those wishes and comply with them. DNT, which stands for Do Not Track, is a preference for users who do not want cookies and other web technologies used to create a behavioural profile of them based on the sites they have visited and other activities.

Mozilla's Do Not Track system, introduced in Firefox 4, has been steadily gaining support, and Mozilla has seen increasing support for its DNT proposals, including from advertisers. When a user sets the Do Not Track preference, the browser adds a header to requests saying they do not wish to be tracked. The recently released Firefox 9 Beta extends the ability to detect users opting out of tracking to JavaScript; the functionality is also mentioned in the draft standard.

The drafts have been produced by the Tracking Protection Working Group which was formed in September and counts people from Adobe, Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, IBM, Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera and Yahoo among its members. The working group's remit is to attempt to balance users' need for privacy with the advertising-based business models of many web sites. "Do Not Track puts users in control, so they can choose the tradeoffs that are right for them" said Alicia M. McDonald of the Mozilla Foundation and co-chair of the working group, who praised the "constructive discussions we have had as we work to reach consensus decisions".

The drafts are expected to become recommended standards by June 2012 along with a third standard, Tracking Selection Lists, which will define an interchangeable format for blocking and allowing web tracking elements.


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