Privacy Technology Unveiled

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The public got its first look this week at prototype technology from a variety of companies that would allow Web surfers to match their privacy preferences against the information gathering practices of the sites they visit without having to read the sites' privacy policies.

The technology is the first of its kind designed to comply with specifications resulting from an industrywide initiative dubbed the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project, or P3P.

Also, P3P got a major boost this week when Microsoft said it would design its next version of Windows, named Whistler, to support its specifications.

P3P has been in development for three years by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, a group run jointly by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control in France, and Keio University in Japan.

Representatives of about 30 technology companies gathered at W3C's so-called interoperability session in New York City to learn about and demonstrate P3P-compliant products. Marketing services firm Engage Technologies and IBM were among the demonstrators.

The White House has endorsed the initiative. Microsoft and America Online also have pledged to design their Web browsers to support P3P.

Also, America Online, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble and the White House said their Web sites are P3P compliant.

Final P3P specifications are reportedly at least six months way.

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