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W3C wants web users to be warned if they're being tracked

Draft standards set out how websites should manage 'do not track' requests

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) wants web users to be warned if a site is tracking them.

The first draft of a new standard published by the organisation proposes that web users should be able to specify whether they want websites and advertisers to track their online behaviour using cookies. Furthermore, the standards, which have been drawn-up by the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, which includes organisations such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Adobe Systems, Mozilla Foundation, Microsoft, Stanford University, Consumer Watchdog and the German Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD), also set out how websites should deal with these requests and that web users must be allowed to see if a websites isn't respecting its privacy.

The organisation is hoping to strike the balance between protecting users' privacy and providing them with personalised online experiences.

"Users have the feeling they are being tracked and some users have privacy concerns and would like to solve them," said Dr Matthias Schunter from IBM research, who's also the co-chair of the working group.

"Smarter commerce and marketing strategies can and must co-exist with respect for individual privacy. Open standards that help design privacy into the fabric of how business and society use the web can enable trust in a sustainable manner."

W3C is currently seeking feedback on the draft standard, which is expected to be rolled-out half way through next year.

Under changes to the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which came into force in May this year, websites are required gain consent from web users to store or access information on their computers. However, the UK Information Commissioner has given UK firms until May 2012 to implement these changes without being prosecuted.

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