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W3C announces web-tracking privacy protection group

Google, Opera do not back Do Not Track

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced the creation of a Tracking Protection Working Group to address online privacy concerns, but the task of getting all the players to agree on what standards should be adopted could yet be a sticking point.

It said the group had ambitious plans to publish standards as early as mid-2012.

The first meeting of the collective takes place on 21-22 September.

"Our task here is to deliver a set of standards that enables individuals to express their preferences and choices about online tracking, and enables transparency concerning online tracking activities for users and the public alike," said the W3C in a blog post yesterday.

"Mechanisms that enable the enforcement of these preferences will be another important element of the work. At the same time, many business models on the web as we know it rely heavily on advertising revenue."

The group noted that data watchdogs in Europe and the US were asking online publishers and advertisers to agree on a so-called Do-Not-Track standard.

Microsoft and Mozilla have already been working on what some might consider to be "technical solutions" to the problem many netizens have with being tracked by ad outfits online.

The W3C said that Microsoft and Mozilla's proposals would provide the basis for the group's work.

However, as is so often the case with establishing standards industry-wide, not everyone agrees on the Do-Not-Track mechanism that's already available, for example, in Mozilla's Firefox 6 browser.

Google and Opera Software don't support DNT.

"A critical element of the group's success will be broad-based participation: we look forward to having browser vendors, search engines, advertising networks, regulators, civil society actors, and many other interested parties involved in the work that we'll do," said the W3C.

The Tracking Protection collective has taken on a pair of "industry-sponsored co-chairs" to lead the group.

It said that Aleecia M McDonald, who recently joined Mozilla as senior privacy researcher, had signed up to the task.

However, the other chair remains anonymous for now. ®

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