World Wide Web Consortium Recommends P3P

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After years in the making, the World Wide Web Consortium issued a "recommendation" of Platform for Privacy Preferences 1.0 on April 16 for use in conveying Web site privacy policies.

"When we say something is a recommendation we mean that our work is done and our membership considers it stable, implementable and encourages its implementation by all," said Janet Daly, spokeswoman for the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C.

The consortium developed the platform, or P3P. The technology lets Web surfers match their privacy preferences against the information-gathering practices of sites they visit without having to read the sites' privacy policies.

W3C is not a regulatory group, however, and P3P implementation is not required by members.

Though use of P3P is not currently widespread, it is built into Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 6.0 browser. Because of IE 6.0's inclusion of P3P technology, people using it receive warnings when sites visited do not contain compact privacy policies for each cookie used.

Privacy advocacy groups the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Washington, and Junkbusters, Green Brook, NJ, have been vocal opponents of P3P. The groups released a June 2000 report, "Pretty Poor Privacy: An Assessment of P3P and Internet Privacy." It concludes, "P3P fails to comply with baseline standards for privacy protection. It is a complex and confusing protocol that will make it more difficult for Internet users to protect their privacy."


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