The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is holding discussions with the European Commission to see if its online privacy technology can defuse the transatlantic row over privacy standards.
If successful, the talks could provide a ready made model for companies wanting to protect Web surfers' privacy according to European legislation.
The W3C is an international industry consortium formed to develop protocols to improve the Web. Its platform for privacy preferences project (P3P) aims to help Web surfers make decisions based on their preferences for online privacy.
Web sites can use the P3P specification to describe their privacy practices. Products based on P3P will allow users to tailor their relationship to sites, either to access them without interruption, or to give the user the ability to check the site's practices before viewing it.
"We are discussing the relationship between P3P and European privacy directives to find out if the technology we are developing can implement the European directive," said W3C chairman Jean-Francois Abramatic.
The European directive, which demands laws to protect privacy, clashes with the US government's market led approach.
Abramatic described the differences as cultural: "In the US, the culture says you have to negotiate between the user and the content provider if you want privacy to happen, while in Europe, you have people that want a regulatory environment," he said.
The W3C is also working on rewriting HTML into XML to allow Web content to be written once but displayed on a variety of devices such as mobile phones or talking browsers.
"Next year you will see companies using this," said Abramatic.
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