This is the summary of an article by Leslie Harris. It talks about how silicon valley and Washington entities have attacked “Do Not Track,” saying it is not good for the advertising-supported World Wide Web. The attacks are even more surprising given the fact that there was already voluntary agreement from advertising companies that they would employ Do Not Track by the end of 2012. Here’s the link to the original behavioral targeting article: The Bizarre, Belated Assault on Do Not Track.
The “Do Not Track” policy has been talked about by advocates and the industry for almost two years now. Basically, it proposes a browser setting that limits the gathering of online users’ personal information, while at the same time still allowing companies to serve up ads.
Just recently, during a meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in Amsterdam, a number of representatives from the advertising industry, consumer advocacy groups, and creators of browsers met up to talk more about the said setting.
However, lately it has also been observed that the Do Not Track is being criticized and described as a move that would destroy the Internet, which is greatly supported by advertising.
A Surprising Development
The sudden “attack” of criticism on the Do Not Track seems rather surprising, especially since by the end of the year, the ad industry has expressed agreement regarding its deployment.
Just last February, the Digital Advertising Alliance, an umbrella network that includes the Network Advertising Initiative, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Better Business Bureau and other groups, expressed their commitment in honouring browser based settings that regulate online data collection and behavioral advertising.
Furthermore, the ad industry has in fact been honouring “opt out” requests for years; however, since these requests are “cookie-based,” they also get cleared when cookies are cleared. Hence, all stakeholders agreed that the Do Not Track was supposed to address this concern.
An Opposing Letter
Despite these occurrences, a letter was sent by a number of House Republicans to the Federal Trade Commission or FTC. They berated the commission for getting involved with the W3C in a move that might control online advertising without the explicit approval of the Congress.
In the letter, they invoked House Resolution 127, a resolution which states that a global Internet that is free from the control of the government must be promoted.
On the other hand, it can also be noted that the W3C is in line with the said resolution, as it is a group composed of advocates and companies that basically seek to set-up “non-legal” standards for the Web. Without it, the national government and international governmental bodies could be the ones seeking to regulate the Internet.
A Controversial Move
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s decision to steer Internet Explorer users toward using a “Do Not Track” option could also be the cause of the sudden backlash against the policy. How the W3C or the advertising industry would respond to this move is yet to be seen. The end result could be a major conflict between advertisers and privacy advocates, which the Do Not Track aims to avoid in the first place.
Clearly, the Do Not Track still needs to be carefully and thoroughly discussed by all stakeholders involved. A compromise between the privacy advocates and advertisers needs to be reached.