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DAA Seeks End to Do-Not-Track Effort

25 Jun, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The Digital Advertising Alliance has asked the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to stop its do-not-track initiative, saying the consortium is duplicating legislative efforts and stepping outside its mission.

DAA executive director Lou Mastria wrote to W3C last week urging the Internet standards group “to abandon [the] effort and to return to its mission of developing consensus around specifications for Web technologies.”

Mastria’s letter followed the W3C’s call for comments to its proposed definition of tracking. The W3C has been working on the issue since 2011 amid controversy and infighting.

Earlier this year, the organization suggested that a “do-not-track” request communicates that users don’t want data about themselves collected by ad networks or other third parties. But that definition doesn’t affect the collection of data by first parties such as Amazon or the New York Times, says Justin Brookman, who co-chairs the W3C’s tracking protection group.

Others joined Mastria in taking issue with the proposed definition of tracking and said it gives large first-party publishers – like Amazon – an unfair advantage.

Max P. Ochoa, general counsel and chief privacy officer at the demand side platform Turn, wrote, “We are the good guys,” adding that Turn and other ad networks and third parties don’t draw on consumers’ “personally identifiable information” – meaning their names, addresses, telephone numbers and the like.

Some industry representatives said the whole concept of a browser-based header is flawed, given that browser developers and software companies can configure users’ computers to activate do-not-track by default. Microsoft, for one, now turns on the do-not-track signal automatically for some Internet Explorer users.

The ad industry says that do-not-track signals set by default don’t reflect a user’s preference to avoid tracking across websites. But the industry also says there’s no good way to distinguish between a signal set by a user and one set by a developer

Alan Chapell, an industry consultant, said in a post to the group, “There’s no mechanism for anyone in the digital media ecosystem to trust any do-not-track signal they receive. As a result, the entire framework is open to question. In any other group, this issue would result in a full stop until the questions are addressed.”

Mike Zaneis, general counsel at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), added that companies could activate the signal in order “to be seen as ‘competing on privacy.’“

Brookman and others are meeting today to discuss the feedback.

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