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W3C To Consider Microsoft's Browser Tracking Protection

Microsoft's tracking protection approach used in its latest Web browser will be reviewed at the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), possibly leading to broader adoption as a W3C Recommendation.

Microsoft currently incorporates the technology in Internet Explorer 9 release candidate, its newest browser issued earlier this month, where it's an optional feature. Tracking protection is designed to ward off the monitoring of user click-stream data by third-party advertisers, as described earlier by Microsoft. The W3C will meet to discuss the technology on April 28 and 29 at Princeton University.

Under the "Web Tracking Protection" method proposed at the W3C, users express a do-not-track preference in a browser. The preference gets reflected in a HTTP header and a document object model property called "document.navigator.doNotTrack," according to the W3C's description.

Users have to turn on tracking protection in IE 9 and subscribe to lists of URLs, according to Microsoft's scheme. The lists, which are maintained by independent parties, are designed to stop tracking by advertisers but they can also be used to opt into specific advertiser tracking, if the user so desires.

Microsoft is not alone in providing browser tracking protection. Mozilla and Google recently introduced their own technologies, but it's not clear if the W3C is considering them.

Mozilla released a beta of Firefox 4 this month that incorporates a "Do Not Track" privacy feature. It too uses an HTTP header to signal the user's preference. Do Not Track needs to be turned on in the "advanced" screen under "options" in the Firefox 4 beta. Ads still get seen by users, but cross-site tracking is blocked, according to an explanation by Sid Stamm, a Mozilla security and privacy engineer.

Google introduced a feature for its Chrome browser last month called "Keep My Opt-Outs" that the company claims will let the user "opt out permanently from ad tracking cookies." The code for this feature is open source and Google plans to make it available for use in other browsers. Keep My Opt-Outs currently doesn't let users select which cookies to decline and accept, according to Google's description. It presently works only for U.S. market-based advertisers who have voluntarily joined a program that respects user opt-out choices.

In other W3C news, the Working Draft of HTML 5 is said to be on schedule to become a final standard in 2014. Microsoft and other browser makers have been championing HTML 5 as a way to create richer graphical experiences using native HTML 5 code.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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