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W3C Accepts Microsoft's Do Not Track Proposal

A Microsoft official said this week that a leading Web standards group has accepted its "do-not-track" privacy technology, which was developed for incorporation into the soon-to-be-released Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), as a submission to be considered for standardization.

As privacy protection on the Web becomes an increasingly important issue to both consumers and governments, there has been much prognosticating about how such protection should be provided and by whom. One way may be through defining and implementing privacy in Web standards.

"Today, the W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] has accepted and published Microsoft's member submission for an Internet standard to help protect consumer privacy," Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president for IE, said Thursday in a post to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) IEBlog.

"This announcement from the Web standards body responsible for HTML5 is an important step forward for people and businesses that interact online," he added.

Microsoft debuted its user anti-tracking technology in IE9 in early December. The company is expected to release IE9 for general use on March 14.

That comes in light of the fact that many Web marketers, publishers and service providers are feeling increased heat from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other governmental agencies for tracking users' habits and then using that information to improve targeting of online advertising.

It's not a new topic of conversation. Groups have been advocating for regulating or curbing tracking Web users nearly as long as there has been a Web, although it has had a fresh resurgence of late as the issue comes more to the forefront.

The FTC has publicly called for instituting a Do Not Track list similar to the national Do Not Call telephone list.

There is much debate, however, over keeping lists, including keeping consumers' data from being hacked.

Beyond the debate, though, a USA Today/Gallup consumer survey released in late December found that 67 percent of respondents felt that advertisers should not be allowed to match ads to their personal interests based on what sites they visit.

"The proposal with the W3C is a significant step toward enabling an industry standard way for Web sites 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," Hachamovitch said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.