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Do Not Track browser standard: Back on the rails

A logjam held up a standard designed to let people tell Web sites not to track their online behavior, but the co-chair of the group that's coordinating the effort now expects progress to resume.

Peter Swire
Peter Swire Peter Swire

It looks like development of Do Not Track, an effort to create a standard that'll let people tell Web sites not to track their online behavior, has resumed after a months-long logjam.

Peter Swire, the newly appointed leader of the World Wide Web Consortium's work on Do Not Track, has been attempting to find common ground among very different constituencies including privacy advocates and advertisers. But there's been progress, he said in a blog post.

"Over the past two days, the group has successfully managed to identify a path toward fulfilling our W3C charter: we now have a roadmap to Last Call for a Do Not Track standard," Swire said.

DNT work had stalled over disagreements about how to enable it. In an initial approach, DNT would be active only if a person specifically enabled it. Microsoft, though, enabled tracking protection in Windows 8 if a person accepted the default settings the OS suggests when it's first run. Advertisers said they'd ignore the DNT setting if it was enabled by default.

"Now that we have identified as a group all of the moving pieces involved in developing a DNT standard, our work shifts to the point-by-point resolution of issues that will lead us to actual spec language," Swire said. "We will define each task, have members of the group take ownership for drafting text, and resolutely march through the issues each week from here out.

And he thinks significant progress should come within months. "Building on real work on the text for each issue, we will push for a Last Call by summer, when the broader public is invited to comment," he said.