Industry Renews Plea To Keep “Do Not Track” Off By Default

w3c-dntThe Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) will make a formal case this week that Do Not Track should be set to “off” by default. Members of the group charged with creating the DNT browser spec heard details of the ad industry’s proposal during a Monday call meant to prepare for next week’s face-to-face meeting in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Under the DAA’s plan, users would have to flip a switch in the browser settings panel to turn on the Do Not Track setting. Additionally, consumers would be informed that if this setting is activated, it limits the collection and use of web viewing data for certain advertising purposes, but some data may still be collected and a description of those purposes would be provided. Read the proposal.

“For this to be workable for the business community in a way that provides consumers with a choice but also allows responsible businesses to continue to act responsibly and benefit consumers, we’d want to make sure the setting is consistent and off by default,” said Stuart Ingis, counsel for the Digital Advertising Alliance.

But privacy advocates on the Tracking Protection Working Group, which operates under the aegis of the World Wide Web Consortium, had chilly initial reactions to the proposal.

During the call, Jonathan Mayer, a privacy advocate and member of the Group, tweeted a link to the proposal with the comment “Here’s the new Do Not Track deal from the online advertising industry. Neither new nor a deal.”

As for the use of cookies, consumers could be given the option to block third-party cookies from tracking their behavioral data, but other tracking technologies might still work, Ingis added.

“I think so long as we’re providing the transparency and uniform choice set forth in the DAA’s principles…other technologies could be used as long as they provide the [opt-out] choice,” he said.

In response to whether first-party companies like Google would be allowed to sell their user data to other parties, the regulations ensure that such a loophole “would not be permitted.” The Better Business Bureau and the Direct Marketing Association will act as the first line of defense in enforcing these regulations, followed by the Federal Trade Commission. “Where a company doesn’t get caught in the BBB and DMA’s net, the FTC acts,” Ingis maintained.

The recommended regulations would also preserve the AdChoices opt-out system. “We don’t have any plans to phase out opt-out cookies,” Ingis said. “It’s a system that works, and we’ve got two million users that use it [and it’s] likely to increase education about transparency.”

The Tracking Protection Working Group is scheduled to present its proposal at a meeting hosted by Apple in Sunnyvale, Calif.

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