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    Washington Post: ‘Do Not Track’ Internet privacy initiative struggles to keep momentum

    The Washington Post reports on the “Do Not Track” online privacy initiative. Do Not Track proposals would allow consumers to restrict the data gathered by Web sites and marketers on the consumers’ online browsing or purchases. The Post reports:

    The two-year-old drive to give consumers a simple way to block companies from tracking their behavior as they move across the Internet has faltered, say participants in the process who are struggling to reconcile privacy concerns with an advertising model that pays for many free Internet services.

    The friction puts in peril the “Do Not Track” initiative that appeared to have widespread support at a White House event in February, when industry officials endorsed it in concept. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who also embraced the idea as central to the independent agency’s push for protecting personal data privacy, had predicted a deal by the end of the year.

    But meetings of a key working committee have turned acrimonious in recent months, and a co-chair of the effort plans to step down Wednesday. Participants now say a deal remains months away, and some say it may take federal action to limit Internet tracking. […]

    The idea for a Do Not Track system was inspired by the popular “do not call” lists that have curtailed telemarketing calls, but there have been sharp disagreements about how to build a system that limits tracking without undermining advertising revenue.

    Industry groups voluntarily adopted a version last year giving consumers the ability to block advertising based on their Web browsing history. Officials from the Digital Advertising Alliance, which organized the effort, said that nearly 20 million users have visited the site at and that more than 1 million have chosen to opt out of ad tracking.

    But privacy advocates have called this system hard to use and too permissive in the information it allows marketers to collect. The two sides have clashed repeatedly in meetings of a working committee of the World Wide Web Consortium, a group that was charged with negotiating policies on how to implement a Do Not Track system. The consortium sets industry standards for the Web but has struggled to handle this issue.

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