Major advertising group quits Do Not Track standards body

Major advertising group quits Do Not Track standards body

Summary: The Digital Advertising Alliance has publicly and pointedly resigned from the standards body that had been lurching uncertainly toward a voluntary standard for online privacy. This might be a final blow to a standards effort that was already staggering.

TOPICS: Privacy
Major advertising group quits Do Not Track standards body

The web standards group that has been working toward an industrywide Do Not Track standard suffered another body blow this week as a major advertising trade group publicly abandoned the effort.

In a letter to the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, Lou Mastria of the Digital Advertising Alliance announced the group’s decision to quit the program:

After more than two years of good-faith effort and having contributed significant resources, the DAA no longer believes that the TPWG is capable of fostering the development of a workable “do not track” (“dnt”) solution. As we depart W3C and TPWG, DAA will focus its resources on convening its own forum to evaluate how browser-based signals can be used meaningfully to address consumer privacy.

Later in the letter, the DAA says “parties on all sides agree that the TPWG is not a sensible use of W3C resources and that the process will not lead to a workable result.”

The TPWG started with good intentions. In response to threats of government regulation, the advertising industry and privacy groups agreed to work together on a voluntary standard. But throughout its stormy two-year history, those two groups have not been able to reach a common ground.

Here's the gory history, as chronicled here:

This is only the latest public body blow to the group, which has had sudden leadership changes and saw a major struggle this summer when the then-chairman, Peter Swire, rejected a draft written by the advertising industry and instead submitted an editor’s draft.

The process was already acrimonious. And then Swire left the TPWG suddenly last month when he was appointed by the White House to a new independent panel investigating privacy issues around the NSA’s surveillance programs.

In a response to the DAA letter, ex-chairman Swire agreed that the process is almost certainly destined to fail:

My own view is that the Working Group does not have a path to consensus that includes large blocs of stakeholders with views as divergent as the DAA, on the one hand, and those seeking stricter privacy rules, on the other.  I devoted my time as co-chair to trying to find creative ways to achieve consumer choice and privacy while also enabling a thriving commercial Internet. I no longer see any workable path to a standard that will gain active support from both wings of the Working Group.

Judging from the acrimonious discussions on the W3C mailing list, there was no consensus on the final standards document. And that means the already overdue standard is likely to collapse.

And that means that the threat of legislation is back on the table. In California, a “Do Not Track” bill is on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. The EU has already set stricter privacy guidelines than the TPWG was discussing. Maybe the U.S. government will even step in to rein in the online data industry, which is still able to fly under the radar as the NSA gets all the public heat from privacy advocates.

In his letter, Swire wrote: "We knew coming in that this was a hard problem.  It remains a hard problem." That might be understating it. Too much data is being collected

As someone who has been watching this group struggle from the beginning, I can barely stand to watch anymore. The process is painful and the well-heeled advertising industry hasn't been willing to give an inch against the underfunded privacy groups. Time to call it quits.

Topic: Privacy

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  • This is great news. Now that the advertising industry has

    public given consumers a huge fu in the face the US congress can join the states and the EU in legislating dnt privacy with privacy first defaults and opt in instead of opt out. Time for some ambitious pols to step up and make a name for themselves. Thank you MS for your dnt on by default driving this campaign and shame on google and Firefox for selling out user privacy.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Lol

      Lol, if you think this Congress is going to do anything that would interfere with big business' ability to make a buck off our data then I've got a bridge to sell you!
    • U.S. Congress

      Expect the following from the U.S. Congress regarding Do Not Track legislation:

      o very slow, with incremental improvements
      o opt-out
      o exceptions

      This is based on the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry which was created in 2004. The legislation underpinning the Registry includes:

      o Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991
      o Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003
      o Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007

      And the Do Not Call Registry is opt-out and has exceptions.

      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Yeah . . .

        "This is based on the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry which was created in 2004."

        Oh yeah, they can still call you because "previous relations," no matter how tenuous it may sound. They'll take every exception they can get.
  • Privacy is a internet joke

    I doubt we will ever see privacy become a focus of reality or standard on the internet. Not with power houses like Google who makes much of their money with ads. Has anyone actually read some of the ULA for apps? Especially on mobile apps. You can pretty much give up having any privacy with these apps. Even if let say the desktop browser becomes the safe haven for "do not track" the move to mobile has pretty much taken over. Even Microsoft is playing the game with I bumped up my cookies settings only to find out would not let me read my mail without allowing cookies.
    • Are you blocking session cookies?

      Session cookies are not a privacy issue as they are discarded as soon as you close your browser (often sooner); thus they are useless for tracking. They are used to keep state in the browser and as a web developer it can be tricky to do some advanced features without them.
      • little knowledge

        I really wish that more people had learned how to use session cookies.
  • We need a "how to" article

    If only I could think of someone who writes about technology issues and Microsoft, I could suggest an article about the best privacy settings for IE, and maybe even other browsers as well. Things like Tracking Protection Lists and blocking 3rd party cookies might be basic to the more technically inclined, but I'm sure there are many ZDNet readers who would benefit from a little well considered guidance.

    I don't agree with JohnnyES that Internet privacy needs to be a joke. You might never be able to fully defend yourself from the NSA, but you probably don't have to. And you can at least defend yourself against less aggressive privacy invaders by simply tightening up the settings in your browser.
    • Working on it.

      Soon. :)
      Ed Bott