New web standards to boost user privacy

The standards body for the web has published two draft standards that it says will give surfers more control over the way their online behaviour is tracked.

"In many cases, web users welcome the use of data collection for personalisation and targeted advertising," the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) explained. "In other cases, [they] can be perceived as “creepy”, intrusive, and sometimes simply incorrect.

"None of the participants in this web of customisation and targeted advertising want to offend the user. Therefore, we need a mechanism for the user to express their own preference regarding cross-site tracking that is both simple to configure and efficient when implemented."

To this end, the W3C announced two new draft technical standards that it expects to be ratified next year.

The first is ‘Tracking Preference Expression‘, which provides a mechanism for a website to read a user’s preferences.

"For example, a user might configure their own user agent [e.g. brower] to tell servers “do not track me cross-site”, install a plug-in or extension that is specifically designed to add that expression, or make a choice for privacy that then implicitly includes a tracking preference (e.g., “Privacy settings: high”)."

The second, entitled ‘Tracking Compliance and Scope’, attempts to define the meaning of a "Do Not Track" preference, and discusses how it should be implemented.

"W3C invites review of these early drafts, which are starting points of work to come," the group said in a statement.

The addition of specific, privacy related technical standards to the web embodies a concept termed "privacy by design". Coined by Dr. Ann Cavoukian, information and privacy commissioner for the Canadian province of Ontario,  the concept asserts that privacy "cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks".

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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