More trouble for proposed Do Not Track flag

The proposed Do Not Track browser standard is turning into mud. Ad-dependent organizations already wanted the goalposts moved; now the advertising industry itself wants the goalposts to be the entire width of the field.

Marketing should be added to the list of "Permitted Uses for Third Parties and Service Providers" in Section 6.1 of the Tracking Definitions and Compliance Document.

And in a follow up:

Marketing as a permitted use would allow the use of the data to send relevant offers to consumers through specific devices they have used. The data could not be used for other purposes, such as eligibility for employment, insurance, etc. Thus, we move to a harm consideration. Ads and offers are just offers – users/consumers can simply not respond to those offers – there is no associated harm.

As far as anyone outside of committee mailing lists is concerned, the point of "Do Not Track" is just that. If marketers (or browser-makers) try to exploit the neutral nature of standards to end-run the public demand that the standard represents, they'll just encourage more aggressive client-side privacy controls from competitors.

This is surely a good thing: "All you get to see of your visitor is the IP address of a proxy server and the user-agent "Go Stuff Yourself!".

But it's easy to imagine (similarly hyperbolic) scenarios where it gets problematic: "If you want your site's ads to show in our browser, you have to join our ad certification program. It's such a nice site: sure would look ugly with a big red warning bar at the top."

The Do Not Track standard has crossed into crazy territory [Zdnet]

27

  1. [blink] no associated harm [/blink]
    [blink] no associated harm [/blink]
    [blink] no associated harm [/blink]
    [blink] no associated harm [/blink]
    [blink] no associated harm [/blink]

  2. “On Oct 4, 2012, at 5:42 AM, Rachel Thomas wrote:

    > Marketing fuels the world. It is as American as apple pie and delivers relevant advertising to consumers about products they will be interested at a time they are interested. DNT should permit it as one of the most important values of civil society. Its byproduct also furthers democracy, free speech, and – most importantly in these times – JOBS. It is as critical to society – and the economy – as fraud prevention and IP protection and should be treated the same way.
    >
    > Marketing as a permitted use would allow the use of the data to send relevant offers to consumers through specific devices they have used. The data could not be used for other purposes, such as eligibility for employment, insurance, etc. Thus, we move to a harm consideration. Ads and offers are just offers – users/consumers can simply not respond to those offers – there is no associated harm.
    >
    > Further, DNT can stop all unnecessary uses of data using choice and for those consumers who do not want relevant marketing the can use the persistent Digital Advertising Alliance choice mechanism. This mechanism has been in place for 2 years.”

  3. As much as I’d like it to be otherwise, ‘more aggressive client-side privacy controls’ turns out to be a very tricky problem.

    The EFF’s “Panopticlick” https://panopticlick.eff.org/ tool is a modest demonstration of just how much data you can bleed merely by showing up (and it is unlikely to be the most advanced or frequently updated tool of its kind, given that other users of equivalent technology actually get paid for their results…) Worse, the weirder your l33t collection of anti-tracking plugins is, the more likely it is that your browser signature is unique, making you easy meat for any ad network with broad presence across multiple sites, or any commonly embedded cross-site feature(like disqus, among numerous others).

    Merely blocking ads is a bit of an arms race; but overall a much easier problem; but that doesn’t exempt you from tracking(they still know what you are up to, they just can’t shove pop-ups based on it unless you do something that allows correlation with other identifying data which would allow email, direct mail, phone, etc. spam to be delivered) and tends to make ad-supported sites sad.

    I’d like to see somebody solve that problem; but I wish them luck.

      1. Available for all the major browsers, btw.

        The design of IE makes Ghostery less effective on that browser.  Can’t say I’m surprised.

    1. Blackhole-ing any address owned by facebook, twitter, or google is a good start. Those “like” buttons that appear on every website in the world? Guess what, when you load that little image they (at the very least) have your ip address. There was an article on ars the other day that suggested even without a facebook account, they are capable of tracking 85% of a person’s web browsing.

      I’m not a big enough fool to assume that directing those urls to 127.0.0.1 means they can’t track me, but at least I can kick some gravel into the machine.

  4. It seems odd to me that the W3C would even care what the advertisers want. They want to be whitelisted, explain to them once how dumb that is and then move on.
    And it is in the advertisers best inrest to comply with these standards as more and more of them are starting to become law, in the EU atleast, only seems a matter of time before the rest of the world follows.

  5. Maybe if they allowed me to select where I want the goalposts, we could avoid all this spilled ink.

  6. Here’s how I picture things, by using an offline simile …

     Imagine leaving your house to go visiting friends, the library, the shopping mall. All day long there’s some guy with a clipboard making notes of where you go, what places you stop and look in the windows of, what products you read the labels of, what venues you frequent. He does this, making notes of your activities, so that the advertisers can send you advertisements and junk mail tailored to your habits and tastes.

    I doubt anyone would put up with that offline. So why should we allow it online?

  7. Anyone or any thing that claims an entitlement to your attention, other than those you’ve agreed to (like your spouse, children, employer), is your ENEMY.  Diverting your attention from your own goals and your own will is to weaken you and to make you less effective.  Attention is a precious resource that most people don’t even consider as such.

  8. >”If you want your site’s ads to show in our browser, you have to join our ad certification program. It’s such a nice site: sure would look ugly with a big red warning bar at the top.”

    You’d be crazy to use such a browser. As the arms race escalates, ads are going to look more and more like regular images or text on the site. As long as they don’t serve a tracking cookie, and as long as the image originates at a point on the site’s own servers, your browser steps into dangerous territory when it persists in trying to block it, as it will surely block lots of legitimate content. That experience will annoy users, who will stop using the browser.

    1. As far as I can tell, ads that “look more and more like regular images or text on the site” are what Facebook is already doing with ads for mobile users. They are mightily annoying too.

    2. I’ve accidentally nuked half the content on some sites, including BB, by making a bad selection in AdBlock.

  9. Why don’t we just take adblocking to the ultimate endpoint. Just hide every site behind a button that says “There might be ads on this site. Click here to display it anyway.”

      1. And it’s a real pain in the arse and I need a Chrome addon to block these stupid Cookie warnings. Cookies are a given, and a necessity for many sites to work correctly. They are not a big deal, so what if a 3rd party knows I’ve visited certain sites, If I have a problem with them then I can run ABP. The Irony if the website asks me for permission to allow Cookies and I deny it, I need a Cookie to remember this next time.

    1. Two slippery slope arguments in consecutive posts? Surely you could have at least used different fallacies.

      1. Do you just come to websites to point out logical fallacies to people who are making jokes? You must be awesome to hang out with.

  10. Who could have known there would be so many difficulties getting people to reliably implement a “please do not be evil” bit?

    Oh wait, everyone. Everyone knew that.

    1. We can’t fine-grain it — at our end, advertising is largely a take-it or leave-it affair. 

      You are more than welcome to block it. ghostery and adblock do the trick.

  11. So what they’re really saying, by way of legal jargon, is “we want the legal right to stalk you for marketing purposes, but it’s OK because we’re not going to hurt you, threaten you or do anything creepy – we’re just going to use the resultant information to place targeted ads”.  Stalking is stalking.  I don’t care if it’s my creepy ex or a creepy marketer pretending to have good intentions.  For what it’s worth, my creepy ex pretended to have good intentions too – that was what he even tried pulling when hauled into court.

    This is a very, very bad idea and we shouldn’t fall for it.

Comments are closed.