Microsoft Web Privacy Features Meet W3C Approval

Microsoft's submission for a new Web privacy standard has apparently been accepted and published by the World Wide Web Consortium.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has agreed to publish Microsoft's submission for a new Web-privacy standard, according to the software company.

"Today, the W3C has accepted and published Microsoft's member submission for an Internet standard to help protect consumer privacy," Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, wrote in a Feb. 24 posting on The Windows Internet Explorer Weblog. "Just as the community has worked together at the W3C on interoperable HTML5, we can now work together on an interoperable...way to help protect consumers' privacy."

The proposal with the W3C, he added, would help develop an industry standard for Websites to "(1) detect when consumers express their intent not to be tracked, and (2) help protect themselves from sites that do not respect that intent."

Broad-based standards allow developers to achieve interoperability across multiple platforms and devices. In the ramp-up to its release of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft has submitted thousands of tests to not only the W3C, but other standards groups as well. "With this Release Candidate we've added over a thousand test cases for JavaScript and updated over fifty test cases based on community feedback," Hachamovitch wrote in a Feb. 10 blog post announcing that the IE9 Release Candidate was available for download. "During IE 9 development we have now submitted just under 4000 test cases in total for standards like HTML5."

Among browser developers, privacy controls have assumed particular importance of late. Google recently released an extension, "Keep My Opt-Outs," which blocks users from personalized online advertising and data tracking. Mozilla's Firefox 4 beta includes a "Do Not Track" HTTP header. Not to be outdone, IE 9 includes baked-in features such as TPL (tracking protection list), which also protects against online behavioral tracking by limiting the information that Websites can collect.

"IE9 enables consumers to express their preference for privacy, and also gives consumers a mechanism to enforce specific aspects of that preference," Hachamovitch wrote in his Feb. 10 blog posting. "Consumers can do this by choosing Tracking Protection Lists from organizations they trust. These lists can block and allow third-party content in order to control what information consumers share with sites as they browse the Web."

Microsoft's TPL initiative came on the heels of a "Do Not Track" proposal pushed by the Federal Trade Commission, which published a report in late 2010 advocating the creation of a Do Not Track mechanism for online activity. A new Web-privacy standard, in theory, will advance the cause of privacy advocates even further.