File Under: privacy

W3C’s New ‘Do Not Track’ Group Aims for Better Web Privacy

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced a new project to standardize the “Do Not Track” opt-out tools already a part of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. To help move the “Do Not Track” tools from browser novelty to web standard, the W3C has launched the Tracking Protection Working Group. The new group will bring together browser makers, advertisers and developers to standardize a simple way for web browsers to opt-out of online tracking.

Behavioral advertising, as such tracking is known, is becoming increasingly common on the web. Advertisers use cookies to follow you around the web, tracking which sites you visit, what you buy and even, in the case of mobile browsers, where you go. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already outlined a Do Not Track mechanism (PDF link), which would work much like the FTC’s Do Not Call list, offering a way to opt-out of online tracking.

While the new DNT header is already part of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, and a wide range of sites now respect it, it has lacked one key ingredient — standardization. The new Tracking Protection Working Group is the first step on the road to standardization and will hopefully mean Opera and Chrome will both soon adopt the DNT header.

To help web developers get a handle on the new header Mozilla has put together a Developer Guide on DNT. The guide includes a walk through of how to detect a DNT header, and what to do about it when you do, as well as some sample code to help developers build DNT compliant sites and apps.

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Footprints photo by Vinoth Chandar/Flickr/CC