It’s interesting that the W3C has felt the need to start a process around allowing users the choice to inform sites they visit of a desire to protect their privacy. A social need has been identified, and the W3C has decided a standard is needed. This seems somewhat of a new remit—or are there other standards of this more socially-driven nature there already?
WebMonkey has a good writeup of the proposal, liberally links to primary sources:
The first draft of the new privacy standard revolves around the “Do Not Track” (DNT) HTTP header originally introduced by Mozilla as a part of Firefox 4. The DNT header — a bit of code sent every time your browser talks to a web server — be used to tell websites you don’t want to be tracked. The goal is to give you an easy way to opt out of often invasive tracking practices like behavioral advertising.
The primary issue at stake here is that the architecture of the web permits—for insanely great reasons—the types of transmissions which make tracking users across sites possible. So the best that can be offered is web browser’s private browsing mode, which only sends cookies based on that particular private browsing session, and methods like the DNT header.
The success of the latter is solely dependent on advertisers’ willingness to go along with the request made via the header. Which, I presume, the more reputable will do in an attempt to stave off legislation. It will be interesting to see the effect the proposals have.