Advertisers’ Proposal Gets Rejected In Latest Do Not Track Negotiations

    July 19, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Earlier this year, the Do Not Track debate ran into a snag as the advertising groups and privacy proponents couldn’t even agree to disagree on a Do Not Track standard. This led to fears that the talks may just fall apart, but both groups were finally able to issue their own Do Not Track recommendations. Unsurprisingly, privacy proponents didn’t like what the advertisers suggested.

CNET reports that the Digital Advertising Alliance proposed some changes to the Do Not Track proposal last month that would limit some definitions, including what tracking and retaining data means. The Tracking Protection Working Group, a coalition made up of advertisers, browser vendors and privacy proponents, issued an official response to the DAA’s proposal that outright rejects their suggestions.

Was it fair of the Working Group to reject the advertiser’s proposal so quickly? Are advertisers getting fair representation in the Working Group? Let us know in the comments.

The question to the group emphasized that the two texts varied importantly on four issues, with the decision today indicating the group’s subsequent direction on those issues, plus a topic that differs based on the logical implications of the four issues:

1. Issue 5 – the definition of “tracking.” The DAA text is narrower in what is covered.

2. Issue 16 — definitions of collecting, retaining, using, and sharing data. The DAA text is narrower in what is covered.

3. Issue 188 – definition of de-identified data. The DAA text would treat data as “de-identified” in situations where the June text would not.

4. Issue 199 – limitations on the use of unique identifiers. The June text would prohibit the use of unique identifiers where alternatives are reasonably available, thus limiting collection of user data in those circumstances.

5. The effects of user choice. Under the June text, the Do Not Track mechanism would opt the user out of its broader definition of tracking. Under the DAA proposal, targeting of advertisements would not be affected by the Do Not Track standard; instead, users would use the separate DAA opt-out mechanism if they wished to limit targeted advertising.

The Working Group were also unsatisfied with how the DAA’s proposal completely ignored what they feel are the two main pillars of Do Not Track – Do Not Target and Do Not Collect. For the former, they say that the DAA’s own tools don’t prevent users from being targeted, and therefore do no “meet the widely-understood meaning of Do Not Target.” As for the latter, the DAA stripped out a standard that called for advertisers to “not rely on unique identifiers for users or devices if alternative solutions are reasonably available.”

Do you think the DAA was right in narrowing Do Not Track definitions? Or was the Working Group at large right to reject it? Let us know in the comments.

In the end, the Working Group says it can’t move forward with the DAA’s proposal simply because it doesn’t fulfill the criteria that was laid out in the group’s charter:

  • 1. Consistent with the group’s charter. The charter says that a standard should define “mechanisms for expressing user preferences around Web tracking and for blocking or allowing Web tracking elements.” The DAA Proposal does not use the DNT signal to address either Do Not Target or Do Not Collect, and so does not fulfill the charter.
  • 2. Significant change from the status quo. The DAA Proposal data hygiene provisions address how to conduct market research and product development, but multiple comments state there is no significant change from the status quo. The overall comments indicate that the June Draft more clearly meets this criterion.
  • 3. Easy to explain why DNT:1 reduces tracking for participating sites. Based on discussions in the Group, and comments submitted, it is difficult to explain to users how the DAA Proposal reduces tracking for users who select DNT. Retargeting and profiling would continue unchanged. Collection would be unchanged, and the principal changes would be to how data is handled internally by companies after it is collected.
  • As you would expect, the advertising industry isn’t exactly happy with the Working Group rejecting its proposal:

    The broad industry proposal not selected by Professor Swire reflected the marketing and advertising community’s commitment to developing a working Do Not Track model that is true to our 2012 White House agreement and provides real choice to consumers, while at the same time protecting the economic engine of the Internet.

    Our organizations remain committed to any consensus process that seeks to keep control in the hands of Internet users.

    Unfortunately, the Do Not Track signal, as currently configured, does not and cannot reflect the real choices of Internet users. The signal has proven to be far too easy to hijack, allowing self-appointed intermediaries to turn DNT signals on, often without any knowledge, consent or input from users.

    The Working Group will continue to debate within the context of its original June proposal, but some players are already jumping the gun on implementing its own standards. Mozilla has been in the crosshairs of advertisers for most of this year as it moves ahead with a plan to block all third party cookies in Firefox. The non-profit recently shared a new plan that would allow it to target third party cookies without affecting the cookies that users are fine with, but advertisers say that Mozilla’s plan still negatively affects the ability of many small online businesses to serve targeted ads to consumers.

    All of this will likely come into play later this month as the Working Group meets to discuss changes to its current draft of standards. After that, it will work with browser vendors on how to best implement the agreed upon standards into Web browsers. Advertisers are likely to resist, but they might just end up agreeing with the Working Group at large in the end. It’s better to agree to voluntary standards than to invite government intervention – a fate that neither side wants.

    Do you think advertisers will go along with the Working Group at large to approve voluntary Do Not Track standards? Or will the government have to get involved? Let us know in the comments.

    • John

      Here’s an idea, how about the advertising industry create it’s own search engine, load it up with all of the spyware they want, include proper disclaimers, and see how many of the public OPT IN by utilizing said browser. Simple!

    • http://www.kingswayhonda.ca/ Cliff

      Perhaps a better solution is to let the consumer decides. When the consumers open the browser for the first time, they will need to configure the settings. I can see that the advertising companies have a point, some people are indifferent to being tracked but they are not willing to make an effort to change the setting so they are tracked.

      • http://www.webpronews.com/author/zach-walton Zach Walton

        Most definitely, letting the consumer decide would be a great option. Unfortunately, both sides argue that they have the consumer’s best interest at heart and want to decide for them. They both want to avoid a legislative solution, but they’re making it harder to avoid that route.

        • http://medicalbillingbizhq.com/medical-billing-books/ Paul Mastermind Hackett

          Cliff and Zach are on point with this topic! Since we (the customer) are the ones they want to track we should be given the right to decide if we want to opt-in/out of the process. After all isn’t that the American way?

    • Name

      Even if you opt out, how do you know you are really opted out? We also have no clue as to what is happening at the ISP level. Here is the bottom line: everything about you is being recorded and you don’t know who is viewing it or how they are using that information.

    • http://www.flounder.com Joseph M. Newcomer

      Every day, I waste hours throwing away emails I have no interest in. In addition, I do not want anyone tracking my browsing, because that could reveal critical business decisions of my clients (such as: they hired me to do something). I would prefer to turn off all access to my browser by anyone advertising anything. Where is it that these sociopaths learned that they are entitled to tell me things I don’t care about or learn things about me that I don’t want known. My computer, my storage, and my Internet bandwidth are being wasted by obnoxious people. What we need is a way to identify all advertising and kill it off. Unlike print publications, advertising does NOT support the Internet–if anything, the amount of useless information that travels on it DECREASES its usefulness and ultimately increases the costs to end users.

      I vote: end ALL Internet advertising and tracking. No exceptions.

    • http://Mabuzi.com kevin

      The consumer must decide but the illegally collecting of our data must stop. You put adds ons, do not track or whatever you want but it wont stop the data collection.

      Hell even Windows allows direct connection to you PC without consent for snooping and all your mail is read too.

      We have the right to privacy.

    • http://www.component-warehouse.co.uk/ Alex

      Letting a customer decide sounds like a good idea, but adding any extra steps to a site may mean that a prospect doesn’t end up staying at the site.
      This will be particularly relevant if it is voluntary and only some sites use it, a customer may choose a site where they do not need to make such decisions before they are able to visit a site.