FAQ: What Google's 'Do Not Track' move means

Google will add support for anti-tracking tech to Chrome browser before year's end

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Anything else about the Do Not Track promises made by the advertising industry I should know? Yep, one interesting aspect: The DAA said it would not honor the setting if "any entity or software or technology provider other than the user exercises such a choice."

EFF's Reitman interpreted that as a pre-emptive strike against browser makers that may want to turn on Do Not Track by default. (None do at this point.... It's off in Firefox, IE9 and Safari until the user manually changes the setting.)

How will Do Not Track be enforced? Because Do Not Track remains voluntary, only those companies and organizations that commit to supporting it -- but then renege on the promise -- will face the music.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will enforce Do Not Track.

The 52-page proposal published Thursday by the White House (download PDF) spelled it out: "The Administration expects that a company's public commitment to adhere to a code of conduct will become enforceable under Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. S 45), just as a company is bound today to follow its privacy statements."

What's next for Do Not Track? Work, work, work.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), one of the Internet's primary standards-setting bodies, has been hammering out a specification for Do Not Track's policy -- what websites should be obligated to do/not do if they support the standard -- since February 2011.

W3C is shooting to wrap up the spec some time this year.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera all have representatives on the W3C's "Tracking Protection Working Group," the committee that's working on a Do Not Track policy standard as well as considering Microsoft's own Tracking Protection idea, which IE9 also uses (and which, until Microsoft jumped on the Do Not Track bandwagon, was the way IE9 stopped cookie and other tracking technologies).

Mayer, Reitman and others -- including the FTC -- stressed the importance of the W3C's work, and called on the DAA and its members to collaborate with the group to come up with a Do Not Track policy standard rather than circumvent the standards body.

"The [advertising] industry deserves credit for this commitment, though the details of exactly what 'Do Not Track' means still need to be worked out," Justin Brookman, the director of consumer privacy at the Center of Democracy & Technology (CDT), a Washington, D.C.-based Internet policy group, said in a statement yesterday. "CDT will continue to work through the W3C standards setting process to develop strong and workable 'Do Not Track' guidelines."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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