Technology

Advertising Alliance to Web Standards Group: Drop "Do Not Track"

By / Jun 23, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Digital Advertising Alliance, a coalition of advertising trade groups, has asked the World Wide Web Consortium to drop its effort to standardize online privacy—an effort the ad coalition turned its back on nearly a year ago.

Last fall, the Digital Advertising Alliance took a bold step against a formal effort to create a “Do Not Track” standard for web advertising: It dropped out of the group.

Now DAA, a coalition of advertising trade groups, is going a step further: It’s asking the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group, which continued the initiative without the ad coalition, to stop the effort entirely. Calling the working group “an organization of individuals who do not represent the interests of all stakeholders,” DAA said the effort has “outlived any utility it may have had” and that there could be significant consequences for the internet if the work continues.

“As we have noted on several occasions, policymakers, regulators, advocates, and industry representatives have grappled with these types of policy issues for decades and continue to deliberate on these matters,” DAA Executive Director Lou Mastria wrote last week in a response to the working group’s call for comments on the definition of “tracking.” “By wading into this public policy matter, the W3C not only duplicates efforts undertaken by legitimate policymakers, but also strays far beyond its expertise and mission.”

Bogged Down in Process

The working group has been struggling for years to build consensus among privacy activists, tech companies, and advertising firms. Although the DAA dropped out, some of its individual members, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), stayed on board—and both groups had similarly pessimistic views on the process.

The comment from IAB’s executive vice president and general counsel, Mike Zaneis, highlights the sheer amount of process that preceded the stalemate.

We have now held 10 in-person meetings and 78 conference calls. We have exchanged 7,148 emails. And those boggling figures reflect just the official fora. The group remains at an impasse. We have sharpened issues, and we have made some progress on low-hanging fruit. But we still have not resolved our longstanding key disagreements, including: What information can websites collect, retain, and use? What sorts of user interfaces and defaults are compliant, and can websites ignore noncompliant browsers?

4A’s, meanwhile, concluded that the W3C is an “inappropriate forum” for the do-not-track discussion and that the conversation is “wildly out of scope with [W3C's] history and beyond the capabilities of the working group and its charter.”

Many other ad industry representatives commented on the proposed definition of “tracking,” Online Media Daily reported. Most either criticized the definition as giving unfair advantage to large internet publishers or suggested that more work is needed before a final standard is adopted.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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