System enables users to track changes in online usage policies of the websites they visit
RESTON, Va., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Internet Society announced today the availability of an Identity Management (IdM) Policy Audit System, a suite of tools designed to give Internet users a clearer understanding of the online usage policies of the websites they visit.
"With the rapid growth of social networking and the associated identity and privacy issues, site usage policies are becoming more important and are ever-changing," said Lucy Lynch, Director of Trust and Identity Initiatives at the Internet Society. "We are pleased to have brought together a team of stakeholders to help restore users' confidence in the Internet by creating a trusted solution to help them manage the use of their personal data. With the right information and tools to navigate the complexity, the end user remains in control."
Website usage policies are generally long, confusing and can change frequently without any notification, making it extremely challenging for Internet users to keep track of changes in the terms of service (ToS) for the sites they visit. This is a particular issue when changes in the terms affect how personal data is used or shared. The IdM Policy Audit System addresses these issues and eases the process for users to help them find, understand and monitor the policies as they change.
By reducing the complexity of terms of service changes, users can more confidently and effectively manage their online identity and associated personal data.
The IdM Policy Audit System components include:
- Policy Monitor – The mechanism tracking known website usage policies.
- Policy Library – The repository of policy snapshots as they change over time.
- Policy Audit Client – A Firefox plugin that presents policy information to the user.
In parallel, the source code, which will enable the creation of multiple other client applications, is being made available for download.
The Internet Society Policy Audit Plugin, created specifically for Firefox, is a working reference application that accesses the Policy Library and alerts users when they visit a website that publishes a policy that the Policy Monitor is tracking. The alert indicates whether the user has viewed the policy page(s) associated with the site and whether it has changed since the last time they viewed the page using the plugin. They are also presented with the ability to perform a "difference" comparison between the current version and the one they previously viewed, with any changes clearly highlighted.
Previewed at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC), the IdM Policy Audit System was created thanks to a collaboration between the Internet Society, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), in a combined effort to address the need to develop solutions for these issues associated with site usage policies. The EFF was instrumental in developing the foundation for the Policy Monitor by contributing the code for their TOSBack website that tracks policies.
"A key issue facing people is the lack of transparency about the policies governing the use of online services," says Tim Jones, Activism and Technology Manager at the EFF. "While we work toward a more comprehensive technical solution, we need a way to help people today know what policies they're agreeing to. This is why we created the TOSBack service, and why we're interested in helping tools like the ISOC Policy Audit Plugin increase the visibility of policies everyone is supposed to be reading."
"The IdM Policy Audit System will make it far easier for users to recognize when a website they're browsing has recently changed its Terms of Service." says Cyrus Nemati, Web Producer for the CDT. "Even when users are concerned about ToS changes, they might not even know they've occurred - the Policy Audit Client fixes this problem."
The active Policy Library, complete system source code, and ISOC Policy Audit Plugin for Firefox are now publicly available for download and community collaboration:
Project Overview: http://www.policymonitor.org/about/
Source Code & Development Community: http://www.policymonitor.org/sourcecode/
ISOC Policy Audit Plugin: http://www.policymonitor.org/auditplugin/
About the Internet Society
The Internet Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. With offices in Washington, D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland, it is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world. More information is available at: www.internetsociety.org
SOURCE The Internet Society