Latest DNT Proposal from the Internet Advertising Industry

“DNT ought to let us track anyway”

Barely two weeks before deadline to agree on a DNT (Do not Track) standard for browser privacy, a working group for the World Wide Web consortium unveils a bold proposal from its members – to let them track anyway provided that they conform with set guidelines.

The terms of the proposal is poised to change the experience that DNT offers internet advertising professionals, analytic firms and other web tracking elements when they encounter the signal. The proposal bids that the DNT should allow them to gather and use behavioral data and in return the online marketing/web advertising industry pledges to restrict data collection for specific information that they would store otherwise.

A closer look at the DNT proposal

Let’s say that we have user who have the DNT option activated on the browser and visits a website that sells computers. If advocates of the proposal would have their way, the DNT would enable 3rd parties to tag that user as someone who is interested in computers but not a visitor of a certain website. More stringent protocols for the DNT that is up for consideration is to allow websites to peg visitors but prohibits them from installing “cookies” on a user’s browser.

  • The major groups behind the proposal include:
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau
  • The Digital Advertising Alliance
  • American Association of Advertising Agencies
  • Association of National Advertisers
  • Network Advertising Initiative

The group stated that they are specifically disturbed about the rise of DNT signals being introduced by browsers without any consent from users. Internet Explorer 10 released earlier this year by Microsoft is a good example of that which was introduced with the DNT option active by default as opposed to having users activate the option manually.

According to Mike Zanies – Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “The DNT flag has been hijacked”. He goes on to describe the tool as inherently flawed when it comes to reflecting the privacy preferences of online consumers because it is an open tool that can be configured by anyone. He believes the issue is all a game of charades and that the DNT in itself is not a consumer signal.

Although the IAB couldn’t provide any hard figures, their publishers have witnessed the staggering amounts of DNT signals affecting approximately 20 percent of their traffic. They suspect it was precisely due to the fact that everyone can set a DNT flag.

Now critics find the proposal vague in terms of how it makes online marketing or search marketing ads different compared to current practices in targeting and behavioral tracking. If it’s all about classifying users into different segments then it is what many 3rd party behavioral ad tracking systems are already doing. Perhaps the only obvious difference is that with the proposal, the website actually visited by users will not be tracked resulting a “high level of data hygiene” as Zanies would put it.

Needless to say, the proposal has encountered a fair share of resistance from many members of the World Wide Web consortium. David Singer – software standards executive for Apple Inc., oppose the concept entirely. In a public comment he states that they do not believe it will lead to any improvement and dismissed the proposal as a minor change in the definition and identification of tracking.

What are your thoughts about the DNT proposal for Internet Advertising?

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