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Platform for Privacy Preferences unveiled

Over 30 leading technology companies, privacy advocates, and other organisations gathered yesterday in New York City to conduct the first public tests and demonstrate implementations of the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P), an initiative by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).22 Jun 2000

P3P lays down a standard form privacy policy which can be adopted by web sites. On these sites, users’ personal information will be quickly and automatically collaborated and interpreted by P3P user agents. The internet user will be able to select the degree of personal information that he or she wishes to have publicly released and the agents will automatically limit the disclosure of information to these preferences.

The W3C is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. It was created to develop common protocols that promote the internet’s evolution and ensure its interoperability.

The White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce have already stated that they will operate the new privacy system. In addition, several prominent corporations including Proctor & Gamble and IBM have confirmed that their sites at least partially satisfy the P3P requirements. Further support for the project comes from Microsoft who have confirmed that P3P technology will be present in forthcoming versions of Windows and Internet Explorer.

Despite this clear support for P3P there remains concern over how compliance with the P3P privacy standards will be enforced. The chief technology officer of expressed his view that “under P3P your browser actively aggregates [personal information], then distributes it in a nanosecond to any Web site that presents the . If there is no means of ascertaining whether all P3P sites actually conform to the standards, then the automated nature of P3P has the potential to freely distribute personal information to any number of web sites that do not possess any privacy policy.