The World Wide Web Consortium announced a new standardization effort to improve user privacy on the Web.
The Tracking Protection Working Group will create standards for "Do Not Track" technology by building consensus among a broad set of stakeholders, including browser vendors, content providers, advertisement networks, search engines, and experts in policy, privacy, and consumer protection.
"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. 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," said the W3C in a blog post.
By tracking users' behavior online, online publishers and advertisers are able to deliver more relevant, individually-tailored offers - more effective advertising. But advertisers' ability to track users across the Web, combined with a lack of transparency and user choice about these practices, has raised public concerns and caused regulators from both the European Union and the United States to call for industry to establish a Do Not Track standard on an expedited basis.
Earlier this year both Mozilla and Microsoft proposed technical solutions in this space. Together with guidelines and recommendations from organizations including the US Federal Trade Commission and Internet advertising associations, these proposals will provide the basis for the group's work.
The Working Group is charted to publish Do Not Track standards by mid-2012. The standards will let users express their tracking preferences and select which parties can track them online.
Adobe, Yahoo!, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft are among the supporters of the new group.