Feeds

Privacy policy tool failed because of browser rejection

W3C lawyer goes public

Security for virtualized datacentres

Browser company rejection is what turned an innovative plan to have websites and users' computers automatically negotiate privacy into a failure, according to the organisation that invented it.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P), a system in which web sites' privacy policies were turned into machine-readable code. But work on that system stopped in 2007 and nobody has created a replacement.

Using P3P users would set what use of their data they were comfortable with and if there was a clash with a website's policy they were notified of that. The system was designed to help users to make sense of ever-more complex privacy policies as web services became more dependent on the use of personal data gleaned from a person's browsing.

Rigo Wenning, W3C's privacy spokesman and legal counsel, told technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio this week that the system failed because the makers of web browsers did not support it.

"We did not manage to convince the browsers, that's the big failure," he said. "The transparency was really key to it. This has not resulted in browser makers using this to show the user anything. We had all this privacy information from the server side, we had all this information out there and the browsers didn't do anything with it."

"[Internet Explorer version] 6 contained some very basic P3P implementation that was only looking at cookies and could display policy a bit. This transparency wasn't really achieved because of the client side," said Wenning.

The problem that P3P was designed to solve was that people's privacy rights were being trampled on because they did not defend them. They could not defend them because they could not understand privacy policies, said Wenning.

"We see that people disregard privacy policies when they are written in 22 pages of legalese," he said. "And businesses hide behind those privacy policies and consumers do not care as long as there is no incident."

While no browser-implemented alternative has appeared, Wenning said that in forums such as W3C's Policy Languages Interest Group (PLING) and in the EU-funded Prime Life project, development of alternatives is based on the findings of P3P.

"Our research in this area is based on P3P. It's all based on the assumption that you label data. How do you get a data warehouse that is more intelligent?" said Wenning. "You have to transfer the semantics that are attached to personal data. What have you promised? What was the initial intention [in collecting] this data?"

"If you store these semantics in the data warehouse or in your back end database, whatever, it makes life easier and it allows easy compliance or easy care for privacy by companies," he said.

For transcript and downloads, see: Whatever happened to P3P?, OUT-LAW Radio, 08/10/2009

See also:

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
ONE MILLION people already running Windows 10
A third of them are doing it in VMs, but early feedback focuses on frippery
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Do Moan! MONSTER 6-day EMAIL OUTAGE hits Domain Monster
Customers freaked out by frightful service
Ploppr: The #VultureTRENDING App of the Now
This organic crowd sourced viro- social fertiliser just got REAL
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.