Do Not Track Negotiations In Danger Of Breaking DownBy: Zach Walton - November 30, 2012
Do you remember Do Not Track? There was a big push earlier this year to standardize a method that would allow Internet users to opt out of ad tracking. Privacy advocates and lawmakers welcomed the move, but have yet to make any solid progress on the matter. A new report suggests that progress won’t be made anytime soon either.
CNN Money reports that both sides in the Do Not Track debate have hit a wall in negotiations. Privacy advocates and online advertisers have been meeting for the past six months to discuss DNT and its implications. It would appear that the major blockade is that neither side is able to agree on what Do Not Track actually means.
Where does that sound familiar? Oh right, Microsoft has been having the same issue since it announced that Internet Explorer 10 would have Do Not Track turned on by default. In response, the advertising industry told Microsoft that it was going to flat out ignore any DNT signals sent by IE10.
To further complicate the issue, politicians have been exerting pressure on the advertising industry to accept the privacy advocates’ version of DNT. The Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus called out the advertising industry back in early October, and accused it of putting “profits over privacy.” The caucus says the only solution is to pass legislation that defines what information advertisers can and can not collect online, especially when it comes to children.
As for the advertising industry, the Direct Marketing Association has started an anti-DNT campaign called the Data-Driven Marketing Institute. The goal is to educate consumers on the benefits of targeted advertising. It argues that a majority of the online services consumers currently enjoy for free to little cost are supported by the same targeted ads that privacy advocates want to reign in.
All of these different opinions on DNT have led to the stalemate we’re currently in. The whole DNT project faces an early death if these groups can not come to a compromise. That’s why the group overseeing the negotiations – the W3C – has hired Peter Swire, Ohio state law professor and former privacy official for both the Obama and Clinton administrations, to oversee the talks. His job is to push the parties into a compromise, and get a DNT plan up by the end of the year. That’s not likely to happen, and DNT is more and more likely to die the longer it stays like this.
So what’s the plan from here on out? The W3C is now saying that it’s going to push all parties towards a consensus whether they like it or not. Ian Jacobs, spokesperson for the W3C, told CNN Money that the W3C “always seeks consensus, but when we can’t, we get votes and make decisions.” He said that one group simply saying “I don’t like this” isn’t going to be enough anymore.
From the looks of it, the Do Not Track issue is going to be a thing well into the new year. The online advertising is unlikely to budge, and neither are privacy advocates. It will be interesting, however, to see if the W3C’s strategy of forceful intervention will work or not.