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1.0 HTTP Headers Description
Frequently when website owners are told they need to add P3P headers to a web page, they just scratch their head and say "What is that?"

HTTP Headers are information that is sent with every web page. You just don't see them because they are not displayed with the document and not displayed in the HTML page.

Headers are sent before any HTML is sent to the browser and contain metainformation (information about the document that is being delivered to the browser).

1.1 What HTTP Headers look like
The following is a representation of information that is contained in a header.

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2003 01:11:50 GMT
Server: Apache/1.2.0
Last-Modified: Fri, 01 Jun 2003 11:16:44 GMT
ETag: "31f9e-620-44ca89c1"
Content-Length: 3112
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html

1.2 What is "META HTTP-EQUIV"
"META HTTP-EQUIV" is an HTML tag that was designed to allow you to add headers to a page. The theory is that you could add the following HTML code to your document:

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Author" CONTENT="P3Pwriter">

The browser would then make the headers look like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2003 01:11:50 GMT
Server: Apache/1.2.0
Last-Modified: Fri, 01 Jun 2003 11:16:44 GMT
ETag: "31f9e-620-44ca89c1"
Content-Length: 3112
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Author: P3Pwriter
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html

When the browser gets the document, it would add the header to the page before it is delivered to the browser. That is the theory, but think about how this would work. First the HTML would have to be decoded, then the headers sent to the browser, then the HTML sent to the browser. That is a lot of work for the server, so most servers just don't do it.

When you look at the definition of HTTP-EQUIV it reads "String that specifies the information in the response header." The real truth is that most (if not all) servers do not add the headers to the page using the META tag. In the case of P3P policies, that is not good because the compact policy must be delivered in the response header.

Since the META HTTP-EQUIV tag does not add the P3P headers to the web page, we will look at the real way it has to be done.

1.3 How P3P Headers really work
P3P Headers deliver the compact policy to the browser. Also included in the response headers are the cookies that are being delivered to the page. The reason the policy is delivered is so the browser knows actions to take based on the browser privacy settings.

HTTP headers can be added to a page two different ways. The first is that you can modify server files to deliver the header information to either selected pages or all pages. The second way is to use a programming language such as asp, php, perl, cold fusion etc.

To add the P3P Header using a programming language, you have to ensure it is delivered before any HTML statements. The following is an example of what the web page coding will look like if you use a programming language

<?Programming Code that adds the header information?>
<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>MyPage</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>
Information
</BODY>
</HTML>

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