After two years, 7,148 emails, 78 conference calls, 10 in-person meetings, and an impending “final deadline” postponed five times, influential online privacy advocate Jonathan Mayer is quitting the group that is trying to standardize “Do Not Track” browser policies.
Mayer has been a vocal part of the privacy movement. Although top adtech lobbyist Randall Rothenberg described the Stanford grad student as “just a volunteer who hangs around the offices” at Mozilla, Mayer is the guy who turned off third-party cookies (which track online activity to better target ads) in new versions of Firefox.
He is vocal about not caring if limiting tracking hurts the online ad business — especially on his Twitter account — and has been a part of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Tracking Protection Working Group.
Recently, the group’s co-chair, Peter Swire, sent an email saying that the “last call” deadline for tracking policies had no chance of being met … again … and Mayer decided he had enough.
Although Mayer says that he still believes in the importance of “Do Not Track” standardization, his resignation letter cataloged grievances with the system.
Read his resignation email below. (Emphasis is ours):
Dear Group Leadership, Staff, and Colleagues,
I hereby resign from the Tracking Protection Working Group, effective July 31, 2013.
Last month, I wrote:
We first met to discuss Do Not Track over 2 years ago. 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?
Our Last Call deadline is July 2013. 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.
I plan to continue collaborating in good faith right up until our deadline. I remain committed to Do Not Track as a uniform, persistent, easy-to-use, and effective control over collection of a consumer’s browsing history. I believe a consensus Do Not Track standard is the best possible outcome for all stakeholders in the web ecosystem.
We have reached the end of July. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. A glance at our issue tracker confirms scant progress.
On substance: The DAA Proposal reflects a radical perspective on Do Not Track that does little to protect consumer privacy. The June Draft has drawn firm objections from myriad and diverse stakeholders; at least 23 contested issues remain formally open. We are, in many respects, further apart than ever before.
On process: We do not have a credible timetable—and we’ve just adjourned for a month. We do not have a definitive base text. We do not have straightforward guidelines on what amendments are allowed. We do not have clear rules of decision. And even if we were to have procedural commitments, they could be unilaterally cast aside at any time. This is not process: this is the absence of process.
Given the lack of a viable path to consensus, I can no longer justify the substantial time, travel, and effort associated with continuing in the Working Group.
Best of luck to you all.
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