The Do Not Track negotiations that have been taking place over the last year between advertisers and consumer advocates haven't exactly gone over too well. The two sides have found very little common ground, and obstacles threatening to destabilize the talks arose more often than not. Now one of the major stakeholders is calling it quits.
This afternoon, the Digital Advertising Alliance announced that it will be leaving the W3C Do Not Track working group after what it calls "two years of good-faith effort." The organization says that it believes the working group is no longer "capable of fostering the development of a workable "do not track" solution."
The DAA's departure comes almost two months after the organization's most recent Do Not Track standards proposal was rejected by the working group at large. The DAA had hoped to limit some definitions and make any Do Not Track proposals more advertiser friendly, but the working group said that the DAA's proposal didn't jibe with its original charter.
At that time, the DAA said that it "remain committed to any consensus process that seeks to keep control in the hands of Internet users." That commitment seems to have dried up in the past two months as the group became increasingly frustrated with movements within the pro-privacy camp, including Mozilla's decision to move ahead with its plan to block all third-party cookies before the Do Not Track working group had come to any consensus on the matter.
So, what is the DAA going to do now that it's pulled out of the negotiations? The organization said that it will keep doing what it's been doing - moving ahead with its own standards:
During more than two years since the W3C began its attempt at a dnt standard, the DAA has delivered real tools to millions of consumers. It has grown participation; enhanced transparency with more than a trillion ad impressions per month delivered with the DAA’s Icon making notice and choice information available within one-click of the ad; educated millions of consumers and provided browser-based persistent plug ins. The DAA has also succeeded in applying its principles to all of the participants in the digital ecosystem. Furthermore, we have expanded these consumer safeguards into 30 countries and clarified how the DAA’s Principles apply in the mobile Web and app environments.
Going forward, the DAA intends to focus its time and efforts on growing this already-successful consumer choice program in “desktop,” mobile and in-app environments. The DAA is confident that such efforts will yield greater advances in consumer privacy and industry self-regulation than would its continued participation at the W3C.
Now that the DAA has pulled out, where does that leave the current Do Not Track negotiations? The remaining members could try to salvage what's left, but the DAA's departure makes that unlikely. The negotiations are now in more danger of breaking down than ever before, and the threat of federal regulation is looming.
Back in March, Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Richard Blumenthal introduced a bill called the The Do Not Track Online Act. The legislation, if enacted, would put the FTC in charge of doling out penalties to companies found violating Do Not Track standards. The Do Not Track working group was a chance for the various stakeholders to come together and create a set of voluntary standards they could all agree with.
With the DAA's departure and the imminent breakdown of negotiations, the advertising industry and privacy proponents may be left with federal regulations that serve neither side's interests.[Image: Thinkstock] [h/t: The Hill]