W3C Accepts Microsoft’s Tracking Protection Standard Submission

W3C Accepts Microsoft’s Tracking Protection Standard Submission

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The W3C announced today that they have formally accepted Microsoft's proposal on a common W3C standard for Web Tracking Protection, which means that the standardization process can now begin. 

An important part of our work with W3C is being an active part of existing working groups as well as identifying important new areas where users and the industry can benefit from a common approach. 

Clearly, privacy is a great candidate for standardization, given the concern that consumers, academics and governments worldwide have expressed, as highlighted in today's blog by Dean Hachamovitch, the Corporate Vice President for Internet Explorer.  

A common question has been what exactly has been submitted for standardization and how does that process work. Essentially, the Web Tracking Protection specification is designed to help users block content associated with online tracking.  

 The proposal has two parts:

  • Filter lists, which can enforce user privacy preferences by preventing the user agent from making unwanted requests to Web servers that track users.
  • A user preference, which is conveyed by a DOM property and an HTTP header, to be used by Websites and pages to respect the user's privacy.

Together these technologies can be used to enhance privacy protection for users, and provide access to content and services that respect user privacy preferences.  

 As to how the standardization process works, this is pretty much the flow:

  • The W3C receives many proposals for new standards, and it filters these proposals based on whether the standard will have broad interest across its members before accepting. This is where this proposal is now.
  • The W3C may hold a workshop to build consensus across stakeholders about how to build a standard technology. In this case the workshop is to seek consensus on the scope of the work to be done on the Recommendation Track.  
  • W3C and wider community members then express their interest in W3C taking up work on a standard. Assuming there is enough interest and enough resources, a Working Group is approved and work starts.

Working group participants come from three places: W3C member companies, outside experts, and W3C employees.  

A specification can go through many revisions, is open to broad feedback, and there is also a requirement that the actual implementations are interoperable before the specification finally becomes a W3C Recommendation or standard.

 We are currently implementing Tracking Protection Lists in IE9 RC, which expresses both user intent as well as a way to enforce this by the user. 

We look forward to working with the other members of the W3C on a common standard for tracking protection and improving privacy for users on the web.

 Jean Paoli

GM: Interoperability Strategy

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