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Response to Last call comments from CDT

From: Lars Erik Bolstad <lbolstad@opera.com>
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2009 23:30:29 +0100
Message-ID: <4AE8C605.7080303@opera.com>
To: John Morris <jmorris@cdt.org>, public-geolocation <public-geolocation@w3.org>
CC: "Angel (amachin) Machin" <angel.machin@vodafone.com>, Matt Womer <mdw@w3.org>
Dear John,

Thank you for your comments. We appreciate your spending time on 
reviewing the specification.
Please find our detailed responses to your comments below.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email to public-geolocation@w3.org by 
November 12 2009.
In your acknowledgment please let us know whether or not you are 
satisfied with the working group's response to your comment.

On behalf of the W3C Geolocation Working Group,
Lars Erik Bolstad, Angel Machin

John Morris wrote:
> CDT has been actively involved in the geolocation working group, and 
> appreciates the group’s hard work on this specification. Our last call 
> comments address two topics -- privacy and process -- raising two 
> issues on each of these two topics.
> 1. Privacy
> According to its charter, the objective of this working group was "to 
> define a secure and privacy-sensitive interface for using client-side 
> location information in location-aware Web applications." Although we 
> appreciate that the security and privacy considerations section of the 
> specification is greatly improved from early proposed text, we believe 
> that the charter called on the WG to build privacy-protecting features 
> into the specification itself, rather than simply include instructions 
> and requirements to be followed by implementors. The WG has failed to 
> meet this charter requirement.
> By not actually building privacy into the specification, the W3C has 
> both missed a significant opportunity to improve user privacy on the 
> Web, and it has harmed the efforts of another standards body -- the 
> IETF -- to protect location privacy and to improve the privacy 
> paradigm for Internet services.
> On privacy, we set out below two questions for last call -- the 
> question of the adoption of the IETF Geopriv standard, and a question 
> seeking confirmation of our understanding of the privacy 
> considerations in the specification.
> On the first question, we of course appreciate that the Geopriv 
> proposal has been much discussed within the WG, and that the WG has 
> rejected a number of proposals that would bring the W3C API into 
> compliance with Geopriv. Although we believe that the W3C is making a 
> serious mistake in this regard, we realize that this WG will not 
> reconsider its decisions at this stage of the process.
> 1.1. Geopriv
> There is broad consensus in the privacy community (and most observers 
> outside of this WG) that the prevailing web privacy paradigm does not 
> adequately protect web users. All of the power and authority lies with 
> the website or service provider, and users are offered privacy 
> policies on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. In 2001, the IETF decided to 
> alter that relationship for a particularly sensitive type of 
> information -- location information -- and it created its Geopriv 
> working group. That group produced the Geopriv specifications that 
> give users the ability to set rules about the use of information about 
> their location.
> The WG has discussed and considered Geopriv extensively, and we will 
> not attempt in this document to revisit all of the features and 
> advantages of that approach. We believe, however, that the WG has made 
> a serious mistake in not adopting either of two Geopriv-compatible 
> approaches. We will only briefly summarize our objections here.
> Geopriv provides a suite of protocols for the conveyance of both 
> location information and privacy rules applicable to the information. 
> It is designed to provide a privacy framework that can be implemented 
> in a broad range of protocols and applications, and the IETF has, for 
> example, standardized the expression of Geopriv location objects using 
> XML. The key Geopriv documents are available here.[1] A recently 
> released broad overview of the Geopriv architecture is available in 
> draft here.[2] Geopriv also includes a robust capability to express 
> civic locations (e.g., street addresses), which the IETF has developed 
> with extensive effort over the past eight years.
> The core privacy requirement in the Geopriv effort is that any piece 
> of location information MUST be inextricably bound together with the 
> privacy rules that apply to the location information. Thus, for 
> example, the same object that carries location also must carry rules 
> about (a) how long the location info can be retained, and (b) whether 
> it can be retransmitted. The critical value of this binding of 
> location to privacy rules is that no recipient of the location 
> information can claim to “not know” that the information is covered by 
> rules. By forcing the user’s “expectation of privacy” to be conveyed 
> along with the location information, Geopriv greatly increases the 
> likelihood that the privacy expectation will be honored, and it 
> creates an opportunity for legal forces (such as data protection 
> commissioners or, in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission) to bring 
> legal actions against entities that do not adhere to users’ privacy 
> instructions.
> This approach is the opposite from how things have “always” been on 
> the Web -- and as such, it would be a game-changer in terms of 
> privacy. By empowering users to specify rules to govern the use of 
> their information, the Geopriv approach -- if adopted by the W3C -- 
> would begin a long overdue realignment of power on the Web, and would 
> appropriately place users in greater control over their information. 
> Although the Geopriv approach does not by itself (using technical 
> means) force recipients to honor users’ privacy rules, both market and 
> legal forces would be able to react strongly to those who violate 
> users’ rules.
> Proponents of the Geopriv approach presented two separate 
> Geopriv-compliant versions of the Geolocation API. Prior to the London 
> face-to-face meeting in December 2008, we submitted a version that 
> fully implemented Geopriv.[3] In the API itself, Geopriv would only 
> require a few additional fields of data (but it would require the user 
> agent to obtain privacy instructions from users). Earlier this year, 
> Geopriv co-chair Richard Barnes submitted a revised version[4] that 
> could be adopted without requiring UAs to alter their existing 
> deployed products. Both were rejected by the WG.
> As noted, we do not expect the WG to change its position on Geopriv at 
> this stage of the process, but as a formal matter on last call we 
> request that the group adopt the Geopriv implementation submitted in 
> Fall 2008, or failing that, the implementation submitted in Spring 2009.

The original and modified Geopriv proposals were extensively discussed 
over a period of several months before, during, and after the f2f 
meeting in December 2008. Both proposals met significant resistance in 
the working group and the decision was taken not to adopt either of them.

The discussions and conclusions were tracked here:
Should the Geolocation API include privacy information? : 
GEOPRIV WG proposal for privacy within the API : 

The fact that the working group decided not to adopt the Geopriv 
proposals does not mean that the group didn't manifest concerns about 
users' privacy. The intense discussions around this issue did contribute 
significantly to the wording of the privacy considerations section of 
the specification. The working group concluded that privacy protection 
does not belong in the Geolocation API itself, but is better handled as 
part of a more generic privacy and security framework for device access. 
The recently formed Device API and Policy Working Group is chartered to 
develop precisely such a framework 

> 1.2 Current security and privacy considerations
> In our view, the geolocation API provides a substantial set of 
> normative requirements for both implementors of the API and Web sites 
> that use the API to access location. Although we obviously prefer the 
> Geopriv approach discussed above, we appreciate the privacy 
> requirements set out in the current specification. In this last call 
> comment, we seek to confirm that our understanding of the requirements 
> is correct.
> We assume that if either an implementor of the API or a Web site using 
> the API were to violate one of the privacy requirements set out in the 
> specification, the implementation or Web site would be considered 
> “non-conformant.” In other words, our understanding is that the 
> specification imposes normative privacy requirements on recipients of 
> location information, and a failure to comply with those requirements 
> means that the recipient is not in conformance with the specification. 
> If this is the understanding that the working group has of 
> conformance, we would like the group to confirm that. If not, we would 
> like to know what the group’s understanding is and why.

Yes, that is correct. The group decided that the privacy considerations 
both for implementors of the API and for recipients be made normative. 
In order to be conformant with this specification a web site must comply 
with the privacy considerations under section 4.2.

In order for a UA to be conformant with the specification, the "express 
permission" of the user needs to take the form of an *affirmative 
action* on the part of the user (active consent) before location data 
are transmitted, when location data are retained for longer than 
"needed", and before retransmitting location data.

> In addition, the security and privacy considerations section describes 
> three separate instances that require the “express permission” of the 
> user: sending location information to Web sites, retaining location 
> information longer than is needed for the task for which it was 
> collected, and retransmitting location information. It is our view 
> that the “express permission” requirement means that the user would 
> need to take an affirmative action (click a button or accept a dialog 
> box, for example) in order for a Web site to be able to take any of 
> these three actions in conformance with this specification. Merely 
> visiting a Web site that discloses its intent to take any of these 
> three actions, without soliciting affirmative consent from the user, 
> would not suffice to meet the requirement of “express permission.”
> If our understanding of how to interpret the “express permission” 
> requirements matches the working group’s understanding, we would like 
> to have that confirmed by the group. If the working group’s 
> understanding is different, we would like to know how it differs and why.

In order to be conformant with this specification a user agent must 
acquire the user's "express permission" via a user interface to transmit 
location data, unless a prearranged trust relationship exists. In order 
to be conformant with this specification recipients of location data 
must have the user's "express permission" to retransmit the location 
data or to retain the location data for longer than what is needed to 
complete the task for which it was provided to them. The specification 
does not specify how the express permission should be acquired for 
retransmitting and retaining location data.

> 2. Process
> The specification advanced to last call by this WG was originally 
> developed outside of the W3C prior to the formation of this working 
> group. This has created a number of serious issues and frustrations 
> within the WG’s efforts, including:
> -- the WG was extremely resistant to any changes to the pre-existing 
> API, and WG members argued repeatedly on the mailing list against 
> changes to the API because such changes would deviate from 
> implementations already deployed in the field.
> -- because of the overriding focus on having the W3C adopt a standard 
> that was consistent with previously developed and deployed technology, 
> the WG did not use the W3C WG charter as a guiding document, and thus 
> failed to meet the requirement that it build an API that directly 
> addressed privacy.

The starting point for the API specification was the Geolocation API 
implemented in Google Gears. Based on discussions on the public mailing 
list and the f2f meeting a number of changes have been made to the API 
since the initial proposal. The chairs do not agree with the claim that 
the working group was extremely resistant to changes to the API.
It is furthermore an important success criterion for this working group 
that the resulting API specification is widely adopted and that several 
interoperable implementations of the API exist. It is therefore not 
problematic per se that existing implementations that have already found 
a certain adoption in the market influence decisions made on the API 
level in this specification.

> -- prior and current contributors to the specification have not joined 
> the working group or made the required W3C IPR commitments, creating 
> significant intellectual property concerns.

Please see below for a detailed response to this claim.

> Although we believe that the first two of these problems should 
> concern all W3C members, there is nothing the WG can do at this time 
> (short of starting over) to address these concerns. Our last call 
> comments relating to process focus on the third point, and raise two 
> specific IPR-related issues. We raised these concerns informally prior 
> to submitting these last call comments, and we understand there have 
> been some efforts to resolve the issues we raise below.
> 2.1 Spec author not joining the WG
> It appears as though the original version of the specification was 
> written prior to the formation of the WG, but that at least one of its 
> principal authors, Skyhook Wireless, never joined the WG or made any 
> non-member IPR commitments. The CEO of Skyhook, in an article 
> published this month, flatly asserted that his company wrote the 
> initial API. According to Ted Morgan, the “reason Skyhook is familiar 
> with the [W3C] spec is that we actually wrote it, the original one. We 
> have been pushing this for years.”[5] The direct involvement of 
> Skyhook in the API development has also been confirmed within the W3C 
> WG process. At the face-to-face meeting in December 2008, for example, 
> it was mentioned that certain features had been removed from a prior 
> version of specification at the request of Skyhook (see the 
> face-to-face minutes[6] documenting a participant describing how “we 
> had reverse geo in the first version of the spec, but forgot to take 
> out the use case ... we took it out due to pushback from skyhook”). 
> However, Skyhook never joined the group (and is not a W3C member), 
> leaving open the possibility for Skyhook to pursue intellectual 
> property infringement actions against any implementors of this 
> specification in the future (including web sites that utilize the 
> API), and potentially threatening the W3C’s ability to publish the 
> geolocation specification as a Recommendation on a viable Royalty-Free 
> basis.[7]
> We request that the working group address this situation before moving 
> to the Candidate Recommendation stage. Given Skyhook’s contributions, 
> the working group should explain how the specification could be issued 
> as a Recommendation on a Royalty-Free basis and what shields 
> implementors from potential infringement liability.

The initial API specification was based on the Google Gears 
implementation. We have found no evidence that Skyhook Wireless 
contributed to the design or implementation of the Geolocation API in 
Google Gears. Skyhook Wireless was participating in the public mailing 
list discussions prior to the formal establishment of the working group, 
but never formally joined the working group, nor has the company made a 
formal commitment to the W3C licensing terms.
The decision was made early on to set up a public mailing list and 
invite comments also from non-members. The chairs are of the opinion 
that Skyhook Wireless made only non-significant contributions to the 
specification. Implementors of the specification are shielded from 
member patents only.

> 2.2 Spec contributor not joining the WG
> It is standard practice for W3C members to make IPR commitments as 
> required by the W3C Patent Policy when they join a WG. Apple has been 
> an active member in this working group (and may have been involved in 
> the pre-W3C development of the API). However, as the chairs noted in 
> June, Apple has not agreed to the same intellectual property 
> commitments as the rest of the group members. The chairs decided that 
> Apple’s contributions were not “significant” enough to require it to 
> make the IPR commitments, noting that many of its contributions were 
> “suggestions” or “opinions.”[8] However, the chairs’ analysis failed 
> to describe the effects that those suggestions and opinions have 
> ultimately had on the API. Contrary to the chairs’ conclusion, Apple’s 
> participation in fact had a quite significant impact on the outcome of 
> the specification.

The chairs stand by the conclusion reached previously. Please find a 
detailed response to each of the claims below.

> Within the WG process, Apple repeatedly advocated for and against 
> certain aspects of the API, and in several instances its arguments 
> resulted in alterations being made (or not made) to the specification. 
> For example, Apple advocated for the use of a native geolocation API,[9]

[9] Re: DOM based API 

By that date the group was not formed. It was a response from Maciej 
Stachowiak to a generic concern from Mark Baker about using the DOM 
instead of extending Javascript. It is very generic, not specifically 
related to Geolocation (which is not mentioned in the message).

> in favor of an error code which was later incorporated,[10]

[10] PositionError Requests 

It is not clear how proposing an error code could be seen as a 
"significant contribution" concerning IP.

> in support of civic location,[11]

[11] V2 discussion 

This post is related to the next version of the spec (V2). Greg is 
discussing a use case, analyzing a scenario where lat/long or civic 
address is needed.

> and -- most importantly to us -- against addressing privacy in the 
> specification.[12] 

Re: w/r/t Privacy 
Re: Additional security and privacy considerations? 

The first message refers to some experiences developing privacy policy 
for CoreLocation on the iPhone at the time of the post, which is NOT the 
same as the geolocation API.
The second message is a statement of opinion.

> On numerous occasions, Apple also cited its own Webkit code as 
> evidence for why the geolocation API should or should not incorporate 
> a particular feature.[13] 

PositionError Requests 
Re: synchronous error handling 
Re: Drop lastPosition from Geolocation? 

Greg has written code to implement support for the W3C Geolocation API 
within the Open Source project WebKit 
(https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=21475) and he has made comments 
from the point of view of a developer implementing and, what is more 
relevant, testing the spec.
The first of these was a proposal for a new error code (see above), the 
second was a request to have the intended behaviour clarified, and the 
third a comment on how a particular behaviour was implemented in WebKit.

With the possible exception of the requested new error code, we do not 
share your interpretation of these comments.

> Moreover, Apple used the popularity of the iPhone as a threat against 
> the API. Apple suggested that if the API were to differ from Apple’s 
> existing geolocation implementation, users of the API would suffer 
> from the discrepancy, and conversely that the group’s decision to 
> match the API to Apple’s implementation would lend particular credence 
> to the API.[14]

Re: geolocation privacy statement strawman 
Re: updated editor's draft of the Geolocation API specification 

The second comment simply states that the iPhone implementation supports 
heading and speed, as defined in the Geolocation specification.
The first message was posted in the context of the discussion around the 
wording of the privacy considerations part of the specification.
At that time the working group had already concluded that privacy 
information should not be part of the API, and Greg's opinion about the 
significance of any discrepancy between the W3C Geolocation API and the 
iPhone implementation can not be said to have influenced the working 
group's decision on this matter.

> A holistic assessment of Apple’s contributions -- including both 
> features that were incorporated into the specification and those that 
> were not, based on Apple’s advocacy -- shows that they were indeed 
> “significant.”
> The direct impact that Apple’s WG participation had on the API is 
> inconsistent with its refusal to become a group member. Apple’s 
> participation in the WG is particularly inappropriate in light of the 
> fact that at least one W3C member -- a company that for the past eight 
> years has been an active participant in the IETF Geopriv and related 
> working groups -- stayed out of the W3C WG because (as we understand 
> it) it was unable to make the intellectual property commitments 
> required to be a WG participant. Thus, a company steeped in Geopriv 
> stayed out of the WG because of IPR concerns, while at the same time 
> Apple participated in the WG process, spoke strongly against using 
> Geopriv, and then declined to join the WG because of IP concerns. 
> Under the W3C’s IPR rules, a WG cannot allow a W3C Member to 
> significantly influence a WG product without making the necessary 
> intellectual property commitments, while at the same time those rules 
> keep other W3C members out of the WG.
> We request that the working group rectify this situation before moving 
> to the Candidate Recommendation stage. The chairs’ conclusion that 
> Apple’s contributions have not been “significant” is not supported by 
> the record of Apple’s participation in the WG. All active participants 
> must join the group and make the normal IPR commitments of group members.

The chairs contacted Apple's representative in W3C, David Singer, asking 
him to sign the IPR commitments. He responded that Greg was 
participating mostly to ask clarifying questions and as a general 
developer. So the chairs considered that the level of involvement of 
Apple in the spec didn't justify signing the IPR commitments and this 
decision was communicated to the group on the member mailing list on 
June 1 2009.

> 3. Conclusion
> We believe that all of the above last call comments are generally 
> related. The API was initially developed outside of the W3C process 
> (leading to the issue discussed in 2.1 above), and then within the WG 
> the leading contributors were extremely focused on quickly 
> standardizing the existing API. This caused the group to resist making 
> significant changes, including those such as the Geopriv proposals 
> that would have allowed the API to best comply with the charter 
> requirement that it be “privacy-sensitive.” We understand that the WG 
> will not at this time go back and meet this charter requirement, but 
> we do seek confirmation of our understanding of the privacy 
> requirements that are in the API. We also believe that the IPR issues 
> must be resolved before the specification progresses.
> [I have limited connectivity over the next week, and so will be slow 
> in responding to discussions on the list.]
> John Morris
> [1] http://www.ietf.org/html.charters/geopriv-charter.html.
> [2] http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-geopriv-arch-00 (this 
> document is a work in progress).
> [3] http://www.w3.org/2008/geolocation/drafts/API/spec-source-CDT.html
> [4] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2009Jun/0098.html
> [5] “The Browser Geolocation Wars: Skyhook’s CEO on Why Google Maps is 
> Misreading Your Location,” Xconomy, July 10, 2009, 
> http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2009/07/10/the-browser-geolocation-wars-skyhooks-ceo-on-why-google-maps-is-misreading-your-location/. 
> [6] http://www.w3.org/2008/12/08-geolocation-minutes
> [7] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/
> [8] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Member/member-geolocation/2009Jun/0000.html
> [9] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Jun/0011.html
> [10] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Oct/0088.html
> [11] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Nov/0113.html
> [12] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Nov/0004.html; 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2009May/0078.html
> [13] About error codes: 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Oct/0088.html, 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Oct/0096.html; 
> About lastPosition: 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2008Nov/0151.html;
> [14] 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2009Mar/0106.html; 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-geolocation/2009Jun/0025.html;
Received on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 22:31:23 UTC

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