Apple, Mozilla Blast Advertisers In 'Do Not Track' Fight

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Things are looking dire for the online advertising business which, for almost two years, has been fighting tooth and nail against standardising “Do Not Track” in a way that would make it impossible to tailor ads to consumers’ online behaviour.

This week tech and browser bigwigs — from Apple to Mozilla — have come out strongly against the online ad community’s attempts to create a more moderate DNT policy.

In the past the online ad world has objected to browsers making DNT a default option as opposed to giving consumers the choice to opt-in to blocking themselves from getting tracked. Sources told BI that they felt ambushed by Microsoft when it implemented a default DNT for Internet Explorer 10 last year and there has been loud objections to Mozilla’s recent decision to follow suit with a default DNT in Firefox.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, Digital Advertising Alliance, American Association of Advertising Agencies, and more submitted a new proposal to the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), which has been developing the DNT standard, last week.

Ad Age explained the new proposal as the following:

“If a user with Do Not Track enabled visits, for example, the proposal would let third parties peg him as interested in cars but not as a visitor to that particular site. Stricter Do Not Track standards being considered would let tag visitors to its own site but prevent third parties from dropping cookies on those visitors.”

But the tech community is adamantly objecting to the new proposal, which comes before

Here are some noteworthy, strongly worded objections, from an email passed among members of the working group trying to develop a standard for tracking online:

  • Sid Stamm, lead privacy engineer at Mozilla, wrote: “Mozilla doesn’t believe the D.A.A. proposal aligns with user expectations of a Do Not Track feature, and it is a step in the wrong direction for any privacy technology… They want unauthorised data collection and tracking to stop. Making a weaker standard where collection continues as-is and compliant service providers only claim to use the data for fewer things would clearly be ignoring these widespread pleas.”
  • Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy at the centre for Democracy and Technology, wrote: “The eleventh hour Digital Advertising Alliance proposal marks a fundamental deviation from the years of effort within this working group to develop a meaningful, consensus DNT standard.”
  • Viny Goel, a privacy product manager at Adobe, wrote: “Adobe objects to this proposal’s current definition of service provider because it places strict limitations on a service provider’s ability to provide (siloed) services to more than one party.”
  • David Singer of Apple wrote: “We do not believe that the major changes to de-identification and the definition of tracking are either an improvement or sufficiently precise to be watertight. We’re not sure what aspects of the DAA draft are considered to be independent edits, and which linked, and without explanation of the edits, it’s difficult to know what issues are being addressed.”

Stanford graduate student and privacy advocate Jonathan Mayer is threatening to pull the plug on the entire debate.

“Our Last Call deadline is July 2013,” he wrote on the W3C site. “That due date was initially January 2012. Then April 2012. Then June 2012. Then October 2012. We are 18 months behind schedule, with no end in sight. There must come a stopping point. There must come a time when we agree to disagree. If we cannot reach consensus by next month, I believe we will have arrived at that time.”

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