The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) took a step down the middle of the road Monday, releasing two first drafts of its proposed standards for implementing "Do Not Track" that attempt to balance protecting users identity and providing a personalized Web experience.
The draft standards -- the Tracking Preference Expression, which defines mechanisms for users to express cookie tracking preferences and for sites to indicate whether they honor these preferences, and the Tracking Compliance and Scope Specification, which defines the meaning of a "Do Not Track" preference and sets out practices for websites to comply with it -- recognize the divide, even among individual users, over how to present a dynamic, personalized Web experience yet limit the amount of data collected, stored and shared about users, according to a W3C statement.
"We know there are many types of users. Some eagerly welcome the benefits of personalized Web services, while others value their privacy above all else," said Aleecia M. McDonald, a privacy researcher for the Mozilla Foundation, and co-chair of the Tracking Protection working group developing the standard, in a statement. "Do Not Track puts users in control, so they can choose the tradeoffs that are right for them."
... these proposed standards are not just about the consumer experience; to be successful, the W3C effort will require the support and participation of businesses who seek to take full advantage of online media and the insights offered by what’s become known as “big data.”
This open standards process – and complementary industry initiatives such as the Digital Advertising Alliance – can help businesses continue to realize, in a sustainable and trusted way, the benefits that Web-related technologies offer commerce and marketing.
The drafts are the product of the Tracking Protection Working Group, made up of representatives from 15 W3C member organizations, including Adobe Systems, Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, IBM, Mozilla Foundation, Microsoft, Stanford University, The Nielsen Company and Yahoo!. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are also participating in the effort, W3C said.
The W3C is asking users to review and offer feedback. Once approved, the organization has no enforcement power over online behavioral advertising, according to an InformationWeek article:
Rather, enforcement would likely involve advertising industry assocations, who could require their members to comply with Do Not Track. In addition, any U.S. advertiser that said it complied would be held to account by the FTC, as well as by privacy monitoring organizations, such as TRUSTe -- also part of the Tracking Protection working group -- and the Better Business Bureau.
The standards are expected to be implemented by browser makers in mid-2012 with websites following soon, the BBC reported.
(Image by Global X via Flickr, CC2.0)