Technology 3 min read

Google Rejects Data Privacy Standard Proposed by a W3C Group

TY Lim /

TY Lim /

According to reports, Alphabet-owned Google has blocked a data privacy standard proposed by the Privacy Interest Group (PING) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

W3C is an international community whose primary purpose is to develop standards that will guide the World Wide Web to its full potential. It is led by one of the inventors of the web Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe.

To date, the said web consortium has 451 members. Aside from Google, some of the world-renowned member organizations of W3C are Microsoft, Alibaba, Netflix, Airbnb, Apple, and Amazon, to name a few.

Standards bodies within W3C help ensure that the web remains functional by drafting standard guidelines for developers. While the recommendations are not legally binding, ignoring the standards could cause a website to have browser loading issues.

New policies are discussed and refined within these standards bodies before they are sent to W3C members for approval. Since W3C makes its decision by consensus, an objection from a member organization is considered an effective veto to a proposed policy.

And, that’s what Google exactly did. It prevented PING from passing a data privacy standard that will limit the company’s access to user data.

PING’s Proposed Data Privacy Standard Blocked

Last June, PING sent out a poll to W3C members asking them to approve a new policy that will give it the power to block projects that are deemed to be undermining user privacy.

Voting for the new charter ended last August 4th, revealing Google’s direct objection to the said policy. In an explanation sent by Google, it said:

“We are primarily concerned that the PING is attempting to insert itself as a required step for all specifications without first focusing on creating a well-developed formal model that can give actionable advice for developers to assess the privacy risks of their features. Although we certainly believe effective and constructive review guidance is essential, only focusing on anti-patterns is not by itself a solution. We’d like to see the PING focus on guidance for what a true privacy-preserving browser might look like based on a high-quality model of platform surface area – e.g. removing hardware, screen resolution, and CPU distinguishers to the greatest extent possible, outlining network-level analysis and the inability to provide privacy from network actors without network-channel-noise creation, and discussing the role of powerful features, 3ps, and various page construction techniques that need to be defeated for true privacy preservation.”

Google further specified that PING’s attempt to establish itself as an authoritarian group without any established “self-serve guiding principles” will only cause chaos in the development of the web platform.

PING’s proposed data privacy standard will put Google’s lucrative targeted ads business at risk. Targeted ads rely heavily on the information collected by the company from its users.

Google said that it values data privacy and has done significant steps to safeguard its users’ information. The company argued that the data they gather is substantial to keep the World Wide Web free and accessible to all people.

As per Bloomberg, W3C and Google are currently negotiating an alternative. But, if both parties failed to reach an agreement, the decision will fall into the hands of Berners-Lee.

Read More: Google’s Privacy Sandbox Will Limit Advertisers’ Access To User Data

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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