Wrangling Over ‘Do Not Track’
Can We Stop the Tracking Already?
I cannot believe this nonsense is still going on. I had to check my watch – yes indeed, it's now 2013, and we still don't have a viable do-not-track specification. This should have been one of the simplest pieces of work that W3C has ever engaged in. Instead it has been drawn out into an ever-deepening vortex of conflicting interests, back-stabbing and bad-faith behavior from which there seemingly is no escape. Do-not-track preferences are now built into all major browsers so many consumers might thing this is a solved issue – it's not, because nobody can agree what "do not track means." I say "nobody" but what I mean is that advertisers don't agree. Pretty much everyone else agrees – it means "do not track." Advertisers seem to think it should mean "go ahead and track" but "don't show me targeted ads so I don't feel like I'm being tracked." Some advertisers who have joined W3C and joined the Tracking Protection working group have done so with the explicit, cynical goal of torpedoing do-no-track. The question advertisers need to ask themselves is: what are they so afraid of? Surely, if Web users find advertising-supported sites and targeted context-aware advertising so useful, then they will be happy to have their Web surfing tracked for the purposes of targeting this advertising and providing these services. If users feel they are getting a fair shake for the information they are providing to advertisers, they should not then object to being tracked. Or is it possible that the advertising community can only exist by tricking users into providing information that they would not knowingly provide and then reselling this information in ways which the user would not agree to?
I hope the working group chairs and W3C team members involved can provide some leadership and pull this group back from the brink of irrelevance. We need a do-not-track standard that stands up for user privacy on the Web.
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