Vendors huddle over privacy

To quell some of the consumer privacy concerns now tied to e-commerce, a group of high-profile vendors gathered in New York Wednesday to test a new browser standard designed to filter through website privacy policies.

Dubbed P3P, for the Platform for Privacy Preferences, the new standard was developed as a common way to let consumers browse websites without concerns over whether information is being collected about them or how that personal information will be used.

Microsoft used the event to debut its decision to incorporate the P3P standard in its next version of Windows, due out next year. Microsoft has code-named the new product "Whistler."

The P3P standard has been more than four years in the making and was spearheaded by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and major vendors, including Microsoft, AT&T and IBM.

At the New York event Microsoft showed off technologies, including a privacy statement generator that lets website operators churn out P3P-compliant privacy statements.

Microsoft also unveiled a P3P-enabled version of Explorer and a P3P-readable version of its own corporate privacy statement.

Microsoft has been working closely with AT&T Labs and the W3C standards-setting body to develop the technology.

W3C's P3P work is aimed at giving consumers more say in how their personal information is used, said Daniel Weitzner, W3C's technology and domain leader, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"This is a technical standard designed to give users more control over their privacy and to make it easier to extend that kind of control to users which will build more trust in e-commerce," Weitzner said.

A W3C team headed up by an executive at AT&T Labs developed P3P as a plain-vanilla capability that sifts through XML tags tied to elements contained in a corporate privacy statement.

Those tags then trigger privacy settings matched to a user's set of privacy preferences. For example, an icon similar to the SSL encryption key - prevalent in e-commerce transactions - may pop up to indicate that a site matches a user's privacy tolerance level.

"At the interoperability session, we will be showing a browser helper object that works with Microsoft Explorer as a plug-in," said Lorrie Cranor, of AT&T Labs-Research, in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and chair of the P3P Specification Group.

The W3C intentionally made P3P a plain-vanilla standard and asked vendors to develop specific products on their own. The Wednesday session will give those companies a chance to check out each other's P3P offerings and test interoperability.

The ultimate goal is to derive an easy way for consumers to relax fears about data collection and privacy infringement while online, sources said.

"Right now, consumers have to hunt for privacy documents, and that can sometimes be scary when they see all they will have to read and sort through. Hopefully this will be a way they can see easily how a site matches their personal preferences," Cranor said.

Cranor and others said the cost and time investment companies will have to commit to in order to make their corporate Web sites P3P compliant will be minimal.

Other companies attending the interoperability session include Citigroup, PrivacyBank, NCR, NEC, Phone.com, and Nokia.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Jones

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?