The World Wide Web Consortium has rejected a Do Not Track standard proposed by the online advertising industry. The industry proposal would have allowed advertising companies to continue to collect data about the browsing activities of consumers, but would have limited the way companies could characterize users based on that data. The group stated that industry’s proposal was “less protective of privacy and user choice than their earlier initiatives.” Senator Rockefeller, the Commerce Committee Chairman, has introduced legislation to regulate the commercial surveillance of consumers online. EPIC has previously recommended to Congress that an effective Do Not Track initiative would need to ensure that a consumer’s decision is “enforceable, persistent, transparent, and simple.”
For another perspective, Al Urbanski of Direct Marketing News reports:
The Wide Web Consortium rejected the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) proposal for a Do Not Track (DNT) standard that would be acceptable to industry and privacy activists alike. The group’s Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG) had been laboring over guidelines for the past two years, with a deadline for an agreement set for the end of this month. With no consensus, the DNT issue may end up in the laps of legislators.
TPWG co-chairs Matthias Schunter, Intel’s Chief Technologist, and Peter Swire, an Ohio State law professor and veteran of the Obama administration, wrote in their report that they “will not revisit the choices presented in the DAA change proposal and rejected in this decision.” Instead, they said they would work on refinements to the “June Draft,” a W3C plan that marketers took issue with.
The Direct Marketing Association’s VP of Government Affairs Rachel Nyswander Thomas, was surprised by the group’s rejection. “We figured we got the W3C to a place where they could agree to a plan that would protect consumers and be adoptable by industry,” she said. “We submitted a plan to de-identify the data, to take it from small buckets and put it into bigger ones.”
If they thought their plan would adequately protect consumers and be satisfactory to privacy advocates, they need a bigger cluestick.
The DAA today released a statement implying the TPWG decision shows little regard for the economic underpinnings of the internet or for consumer choice. It quoted a Zogby poll that found that 68 percent of consumers prefer to get at least some Internet ads directed at their interests and 75 percent prefer to make their own decisions about relevant advertisement
“I’ve heard reactions that this decision is a body blow to marketers, but I patently disagree,” Thomas said. “We already have a privacy program for consumers that works and that will grow. The W3C will continue on, but only as an academic exercise.”
Read more on DMN.
So after years of discussions, we still have two sides that are pretty far apart, it seems. And voluntarily limiting use is not an adequate alternative to preventing collection of data, in my opinion. Just as little stops the NSA from using information they amass in bulk collection programs (despite their assurances), I don’t trust businesses, either.
If you don’t collect it in the first place, you can’t misuse it or abuse it, and you have less risk of consumer information being hacked and misused by others. So yes, I’m still looking for a strong standard that limits collection as well as use. And I’m just fine with the default being Do Not Track. Those who want ads can change their settings, right?