W3C Releases Working Draft of Privacy Specs

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Amid a heightened sense of urgency surrounding privacy self-regulation efforts, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) this week released the first working draft of Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) specifications.


If all goes according to plan, P3P will be a standard specification that the online software industry will use to create Web applications so consumers can set their computers to automatically assess whether to share personal information with a marketer's site.


W3C is fielding comment on the draft and details have yet to be worked out, but here's an example of how the specification might work: Using a P3P-enabled browser, consumers could fill out an electronic form with their personal information once and store it on their hard drives. As part of the process, they could set their browsers to share varying levels of information with sites depending on their data-gathering and disclosure practices. Consumers could, for instance, set their browsers to disclose only demographic information to sites maintained by marketers who share data with other marketers.


"The big issue about privacy is that consumers want control over disclosure," said Diane Elavsky, director of strategic communications at W3C member company Engage Technologies, Andover, MA.


Elavsky said P3P is an example of industry self-regulation at work.


"This is a dramatic step in that a bunch of vendors who are the leaders in their spaces are working to agree upon a common specification to come up with a mechanism for mutual consent in the sharing and use of data collected on the Web," she said.


There is no deadline set for the final draft of P3P.
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