Web standards body to allow turning off web referrals

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is working on a new feature to enable users to easily turn off user tracking by websites.

J Alan Bird, head of business development for W3C — which sets the standards for the Web — said the organization is working on evolving a mechanism that will allow users to easily turn off web page tracking.

Under the current system, websites can easily track where a user is coming from, or which was the site that the user was accessing just before coming to the present site.

The ‘referrals,’ as they are known, are used by a large chunk of today’s websites, primarily to give credit to other websites that ‘drive’ traffic to their own.

But the mechanism has also resulted in invasion of privacy in cases where details of the visitor are also sent by the ‘previous’ or ‘referring’ page to the current or referred site.

“Some users are surprised to see the correct language and half the blanks already filled in when they go to a new site.. We are working on a mechanism to turn this off in an easy way,” he said, speaking in New Delhi today.

Turning off of referrals, possible using a browser button, could throw into trouble a large part of the Internet-based industry.

For example, many sites get money for referring a user to another website, such as a news site or an ecommerce site. Mozilla Foundation, for example, gets nearly all of its $100 million annual revenues as referral fees from Google and other search engines thanks to its search box built into its Firefox browser.