Laws, self-regulation, and P3P: will W3C's privacy platform help make the Web safe for privacy?


Lorrie Faith Cranor (AT&T Labs-Research)


Lorrie Faith Cranor (AT&T Labs-Research)


Roger Clarke (Xamax Consultancy)
Josef Dietl (W3C)
Daniel Jaye (Engage Technologies)
Yves Le Roux (Digital Equipment)

Concerns about online data collection have prompted legislators and regulators to take a critical look at online data privacy [1] and motivated technical solutions to online privacy problems. Over the past two years, several organizations have launched efforts to develop "user empowerment" approaches to online privacy [2]. These efforts include TRUSTe [3], and W3C's Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P) [4]. P3P is intended to allow Web sites to express their privacy practices and users to exercise preferences over those practices. If a relationship is developed, subsequent interactions and any resulting data exchanges are governed by an agreement between the site and the user. After configuring privacy preferences, individuals should be able to seamlessly browse the Internet; their browsing software negotiates with Web sites and provides access to sites only when a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached. P3P efforts focus on how to exchange privacy statements in a flexible and seamless manner. However, the platform may be used in conjunction with other systems, such as TRUSTe, that provide assurances that privacy statements are accurate [5].

The P3P working groups have tried to develop a platform that will address the needs of both Web sites and users. The P3P Harmonized Vocabulary Working Group has worked to develop a vocabulary that incorporates notions about privacy from a variety of legal frameworks and cultural norms. The vocabulary allows Web sites to describe the type of data they collect, the purposes for which they will use data, and other aspects of their information practices. The P3P Protocols and Data Transport Working group has tried to develop a specification that is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of present and future online applications. The first version of the P3P specification is expected within the next few months, and several companies have announced that they will incorporate P3P into their products.

The success of P3P will depend in part on the willingness of Web sites to adopt P3P and the eagerness of individuals to use it. It will also depend on its ability to support both government-regulatory and self-regulatory privacy regimes. This panel session will begin with brief presentations on data privacy issues and an overview of the P3P design. Panelists will present their perspectives on P3P through a lively discussion among themselves and with the audience.

What does P3P mean for Web sites, software developers, and end users? What will it take for P3P to become widely adopted? Is P3P too complicated to be usable? To what extent will P3P address online privacy problems? How does P3P support various legal requirements and self-regulatory guidelines? Join us for a lively discussion on these and other questions.


Lorrie Faith Cranor is a Senior Technical Staff Member in the Secure Systems Research Department at AT&T Labs-Research in Florham Park, New Jersey. She chaired the W3C working group that developed the P3P grammatical model, and is editor of the P3P Implementation Guide. Her other current projects include electronic voting, and a study of the unsolicited commercial email problem. Lorrie received her doctorate in Engineering & Policy from Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to joining AT&T, she was a lecturer in the Engineering & Policy and Computer Science departments at Washington University. E-mail:;


Roger Clarke is a consultant in the management of information and information technology. He works through his own company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. He has a doctorate from the Australian National University, and has spent over 25 years in the I.T. industry, as professional, manager, consultant and academic. In 1996 and 1997, he was named by Information Age magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in IT&T in Australia. His work encompasses corporate strategy, government policy and public advocacy, particularly in relation to electronic commerce, information infrastructure, electronic publishing, and privacy and dataveillance. E-mail:;

Position statement: For the web to become privacy-friendly, a number of conditions have to be fulfilled. Standards must be established and publicized. Those standards must be sufficiently simple that they can be readily understood and efficiently implemented. They must be sophisticated enough to address complex needs. They must be flexible enough to be applied in different legal, lingual and cultural contexts. There must be a combination of political motive and economic incentive to impel developers to develop compliant products, and pioneers and early adopters to apply them. The P3P team scores highly for effort and intent, but as the standard reaches the harsh light of day, there is a risk it will melt away.

Josef Dietl is the World Wide Web Consortium's electronic commerce specialist and part-time policy contact in Europe. He holds a Master in Physics from the Technical University of Munich and has spent his time since then working to integrate the new media with the global society. After having co-founded a group to that effect in Munich, he moved on to CompuServe Central Europe. There he gathered live experience in electronic commerce and its legal obstacles. His work there with PICS laid the foundation for his transition to the World Wide Web Consortium. E-mail:;

Position statement:  On the one hand, advertising and other forms of third-party-payments, are predicted to be one of the most important sources of revenue for web publishing. Personalization is a key success factor for Web objects, and the capability to build a strong, bi-directional relationship with the reader is the big competitive advantage of Web publishing over print and broadcast.  On the other hand, the use and potential abuse of this information rightly raises red flags in people's minds. The mechanisms provided by P3P allow services to display their privacy practices, effectively making P3P statements a selection criterion in the competition for users' attention. In other words: P3P provides services with a carrot for responsible handling of users data. The size of this carrot is determined by the users.

Daniel Jaye is the Chief Technology Officer of Engage Technologies, where he is responsible for delivering interactive database marketing products and information. Dan has focused on delivering relationship marketing solutions using VLDB parallel database technologies for the past 9 years. Prior to co-founding Engage Technologies in 1995, Dan was Director of High-Performance Computing at Fidelity Investments, where he managed Fidelity's retail marketing data warehouse and applications and led projects responsible for enterprise-wide retail customer management and re-engineering the sales process. Dan has also managed the delivery of customer database-driven applications and products at Epsilon and Andersen Consulting. Dan holds a B.A in astronomy, astrophysics and physics from Harvard College. E-mail:;

Position statement: If content is going to be subsidized by marketing, then it must be effective for the advertiser, hence the need for targeting technologies. Creating a privacy infrastructure that provides consumers with far greater protection and control than in the "physical world" while at the same time meeting the needs of web marketers is critical. Engage is in the business of balancing these two needs and feels that technology can help reconcile them and that, in fact, they are not contradictory. P3P is the best attempt so far at creating that privacy infrastructure.

Yves Le Roux works in the Corporate Security Program at Digital Equipment. He is currently working on Techno-Policy Issues and chairs the Security Working Group of the European Association of Manufacturers of Business Machines and Information Technology Industry (EUROBIT). He is also participating in the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC), and he participated in drafting the OECD Cryptography Policy Guidelines. He is also the chairman of the P3P Transport and Protocols Working Group. Before joining DIGITAL in 1986, Yves spent five years in the French Ministry of Industry in charge of the strategy in the field of OSI Standardization. Previously, he spent 10 years in the Rothschild Group working on Data Networks and Security. E-mail:

Position statement: Privacy is the number one concern of Internet users, and users want control over their personal information online. In order to increase user confidence, service providers and manufacturers must develop technological tools that aim to protect privacy. The various technologies put forward for protecting privacy range from tools that provide anonymity, through those that offer a clear choice between anonymity and identification, to those that seek to provide openness about data practices and foster informed decisions by individuals. From a manufacturer point of view, it seems very important to have standards for these types of tools in order to avoid interoperability problems.


  1. For background information on data privacy, see: Clarke, R., Introduction to dataveillance and information privacy, and definitions of terms, August 1997,
  2. For an overview of how technology can play a role in data privacy protection, see: Cranor, L., The role of technology in self-regulatory privacy regimes, in: Privacy and Self Regulation in the Information Age. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration, June 1997,
  3. See the TRUSTe Web site at
  4. See the W3C P3P Web site at
  5. For more background on P3P and a discussion of some of the tradeoffs involved in its development see: L. Cranor and J. Reagle Jr., Designing a social protocol: lessons learned from the platform for privacy preferences, in: Proceedings of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, September, 1997,