W3C standards promise more private web


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has proposed a number of new standards designed to let users know when they're being tracked online.

W3C wants to see companies and browser makers jump on board to make 'do not track' functionality widely available. It also hopes to let users know when websites aren't complying with user privacy preferences.

The first two drafts of the standards - the Tracking Preference Expression and the Tracking Compliance and Scope Specification were released yesterday.

"Smarter commerce and marketing strategies can and must coexist with respect for individual privacy," said Dr Matthias Schunter, from IBM Research and co-chair of the W3C Tracking Protection 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."

A number of big-name tech companies are involved in the working group, including Apple. The iPhone maker came under fire earlier this year for a tracking function in its phones.

Smarter commerce and marketing strategies can and must coexist with respect for individual privacy.

It has been taken to court by incensed users across the world. Thousands were looking for compensation in South Korea.

A number of browser makers have already sought to include 'do not track' features in their products, including Google and Mozilla, both of whom are also in the working group.

"'Do not track' puts users in control, so they can choose the tradeoffs that are right for them," said Aleecia McDonald, Mozilla Foundation and co-chair of the Tracking Protection Working Group.

"I congratulate the working group members on meeting this milestone and I am delighted by the constructive discussions we have had as we work to reach consensus decisions."

Meanwhile, UK companies are hoping to be in line with cookie laws by 25 May 2012. They will have to gain consent from users before downloading cookie files onto systems and track them.

Those who don't comply with the law could be slapped with a 500,000 fine, although many websites are yet to get in line.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.