Open Profiling Standard (OPS)

Open Profiling Standard (OPS) is a proposed standard for how Web users can control the personal information they share with Web sites.

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Open Profiling Standard (OPS) is a proposed standard for how Web users can control the personal information they share with Web sites. OPS has a dual purpose: (1) to allow Web sites to personalize their pages for the individual user and (2) to allow users to control how much personal information they want to share with a Web site. OPS was proposed to the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1997 by Netscape Communications (now part of America Online), Firefly Network, and VeriSign.

How It Works

  1. A Web user uses special software (or it could be combined with a Web browser) to create a Personal Profile that is stored in the user's computer. (If desired, the Profile could also be placed in a corporate or global directory.)
  2. When a Web user visits a Web site for the first time, the site could ask the user for information from the Personal Profile and the user could decide whether and how much information to give the site.
  3. The site would store the information on its site. When the visitor returned, the Web site, after identifying the user, could use the previously-stored Profile to personalize the pages for that user (for example, provide occupation or hobby-related information on certain pages).

What the Personal Profile Contains

One could think of the Personal Profile as an elaborate, user-defined cookie. Cookies are files that Web sites currently place on each user's own hard disk so that they can recall some information about the user. This information is very limited and the user can control only whether cookies are permitted or not. A Personal Profile gives the user much finer control of personal information.

In general, a Personal Profile would contain:

  • A unique identifier for the Profile itself
  • A unique identifier for each Web site that is visited (used to control how much of the Profile the site can access)
  • Basic demographic data (country, zip code, age, and gender)
  • Contact information (name, address, zip or postal code, telephone number, e-mail address, and so forth). This is based on the vCard specification.
  • Additionally, one or more sections for e-commerce information, such as credit card numbers
  • Detailed personal preferences (hobbies, favorite activities, favorite magazines, and so forth)

The P3P Recommendations provide a formal way to implement the Personal Profile that uses the Resource Definition Framework (RDF) of the W3C.

This was first published in September 2005

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