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Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25, ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)

From: Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2012 12:05:23 -0800
Cc: public-tracking@w3.org
Message-Id: <405FE3DA-5D6E-49FD-AEB2-D69C311343E8@stanford.edu>
To: Matthias Schunter <mts@zurich.ibm.com>
Matthias,

I am not willing to kick the can down the road.  As I explained in an earlier email, I see scant reason to believe businesses will suddenly begin to develop or adopt privacy-preserving technologies.  I am operating under the assumption that the DNT specification will be the final say on web tracking for years to come.

As for this notion of "good actors" and "bad actors" I've seen tossed around recently, I think it unhelpfully blurs two separate ideas.  First, what does Do Not Track do to totally malicious websites?  The answer is nothing—for them, it's the evil bit.  But, thankfully, the overwhelmingly majority of large third parties are legitimate commercial enterprises within the reach of the law.  By my last tally, in fact, around half are headquartered right here in the Bay Area.

The second idea is: What does Do Not Track do to websites that, as a matter of policy, attempt to respect the standard?  If your concerns include any combination of (unintentional conduct/malicious employee/hacking/government mandate) + (use/sharing/public disclosure) + (physical harm/economic harm/reputational harm/emotional harm), then you'll believe (as I do) that the standard should impose constraints on these websites.

Jonathan

On Feb 10, 2012, at 11:49 AM, Matthias Schunter wrote:

> Hi Jonathan,
> 
> 
> I actually agree with Shane for V01 of our standard.
> 
> We should focus the MUST on use/retention/sharing/...
> and we should assume that the actors implementing DNT are
> not malicious.
> 
> Nevertheless, a SHOULD can be used to provide incentive for
> privacy-enhancing technologies. A SHOULD can also state that no more
> data shall be collected than needed for the operational purpose.
> 
> Once these technologies are commonplace and the 'legacy' cookie-based
> technology has lost importance, we can then issue a V02 that upgrades
> the SHOULD to a MUST (this would at that point not incur large costs).
> 
> btw: Compared to the starting position of "we continue unchanged and
> just no longer show targeted ads", this feel like progress to me.
> 
> Just my personal 2cents; feedback is appreciated.
> 
> 
> Regards,
> matthias
> 
> On 2/10/2012 8:26 PM, Shane Wiley wrote:
>> I’m open to compromise but need to ensure the outcomes don’t levy
>> significant cost and loss of revenue to the online advertising
>> industry in the process (sincerely looking for the appropriate
>> balance).  I offered that we start at “use-based limitations” for the
>> MUST (yes, this means we need to trust good actors) and set new
>> technology approaches as SHOULD.  I believe this is a reasonable
>> compromise.  Yahoo! (and other industry participants) will immediately
>> engage with you and others to begin the design process for privacy
>> enhancing technologies to help bring these solutions to market in a
>> measured and thoughtful manner – and in a way that all participants
>> can easily upgrade their current efforts to embrace.  Big picture:
>> large companies and academia work together to develop the baseline
>> tech and then provide this as open-source (for example, Apache) to
>> mid-size and small companies.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Our companies are taking on all the cost and disruption the above
>> entails – in light of consumer privacy risks that have never been
>> proven to be real (yet –> understanding the “technically possible”
>> angle) and are immediately addressing all of the issues surrounding
>> cross-site profiling data collection and use. 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> How you do not see this as compromise is difficult for me to understand.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> - Shane
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> *From:*Jonathan Mayer [mailto:jmayer@stanford.edu]
>> *Sent:* Friday, February 10, 2012 12:01 PM
>> *To:* Shane Wiley
>> *Cc:* Justin Brookman; public-tracking@w3.org
>> *Subject:* Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25,
>> ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Shane,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Your objections in response to this proposal (and earlier discussions
>> of privacy-preserving technology) suggest that you will not accept
>> *any* deviation from current data collection practices.  That's not
>> compromise.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Jonathan
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> On Feb 10, 2012, at 10:56 AM, Shane Wiley wrote:
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Jonathan,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> I appreciate and respect the desire to find a technical solution to
>> online identifiers and identification at a rapid clip.  These concepts
>> and their related implementations require much deeper thought,
>> discussion, design, and ultimately consensus.  Your current proposal
>> (on its surface) would be impossible to achieve at our scale in just 6
>> months – and would completely halt/disrupt the established product
>> roadmap for our ad products (which are working hard to be competitive
>> and keep our systems evolving with the marketplace).  It would
>> literally take a year or two to go in this direction if we even agreed
>> this was an appropriate outcome - which I believe it is not at this
>> time but am more than willing to keep the conversation going in a
>> different forum.  It’s my opinion that the DNT WG is NOT the
>> appropriate forum to determine what is appropriate for online
>> identifiers and identification (much more involved effort than this
>> isolated conversation).
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> - Shane
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> *From:* Jonathan Robert Mayer [mailto:jmayer@stanford.edu] 
>> *Sent:* Friday, February 10, 2012 11:48 AM
>> *To:* Shane Wiley
>> *Cc:* Justin Brookman; public-tracking@w3.org
>> <mailto:public-tracking@w3.org>
>> *Subject:* Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25,
>> ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Whatever the difficulty of implementation, I understand it won't
>> happen overnight. How about if we provide a short-term
>> grandfathering-in period? For example, six months where frequency
>> capping etc. can still be accomplished with an ID cookie?
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Jonathan
>> 
>> On Feb 10, 2012, at 10:29 AM, Shane Wiley <wileys@yahoo-inc.com
>> <mailto:wileys@yahoo-inc.com>> wrote:
>> 
>>    Jonathan,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Moving an entire architecture that is cookie based to one that is
>>    IP + User Agent based is not trivial and would require changes at
>>    all tiers (hosting servers, operational servers, data warehousing
>>    systems, reporting, security, all scripts and coding logic for
>>    system interoperability, etc.).  When I quoted the timelines I was
>>    being serious.  It’s a significant and fundamental change across
>>    the board.  And while some ad networks may use protocol
>>    information for “operational uses” they probably also use
>>    cookies.  So removing cookies from the equation would have
>>    significant issues for them as well – again, across the board.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    I don’t believe I’m “over estimating” the effort for effect. 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Side Note 1:  I believe there is another Working Group focused on
>>    Online Identity (perhaps not W3C though – I’ll try to track this
>>    down).  I mention this as it goes back to my earlier comments on
>>    not attempting to solve all online privacy issues in a single
>>    working group.  It’s unfortunate the charter of this working group
>>    has been so broadly interpreted by some as that appears to be
>>    where much of the churn is in our efforts.  If our focused was
>>    constrained to “profiling” and uses of “profiling”, I believe we’d
>>    be MUCH further along.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Side Note 2:  I believe the truth of our current situation is
>>    somewhere between Mike’s email and that our disagreements are
>>    localized to just a few issues (as you’ve stated).  The
>>    operational purpose exceptions and implementation cost are so core
>>    to the discussion (and the on-going ability for many web based
>>    companies to monetize their efforts) AND appear to be incredibly
>>    divisive as to render our progress halted at this time (akin to
>>    “going in circles” versus making incremental steps forward). 
>>    Purely my opinion…
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    - Shane
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    *From:* Jonathan Mayer [mailto:jmayer@stanford.edu] 
>>    *Sent:* Friday, February 10, 2012 10:46 AM
>>    *To:* Shane Wiley
>>    *Cc:* Justin Brookman; public-tracking@w3.org
>>    <mailto:public-tracking@w3.org>
>>    *Subject:* Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25,
>>    ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Shane,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Could you give a bit more explanation of how this would "require
>>    massive re-architecture of most internal systems"?  As I
>>    understand it, some advertising networks already use protocol
>>    information for "operational uses."  For those companies that
>>    don't, a quick implementation would be to just hash IP address +
>>    User-Agent string and treat that as an identifier.  I don't mean
>>    to excessively trivialize the implementation burden, but it seems
>>    to me much lesser than other alternatives on the table (save, of
>>    course, business as usual).
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    As for objections to fingerprinting, I want to be clear that the
>>    idea I'm floating is passive fingerprinting, not active
>>    fingerprinting.  Passive fingerprinting leverages information that
>>    we would already allow companies to collect—no more.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Jonathan
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    On Feb 10, 2012, at 9:34 AM, Shane Wiley wrote:
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Jonathan,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    I believe this could be a “SHOULD” goal because of two core factors:
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    1.       This approach will require massive re-architecture of
>>    most internal systems (several year effort for a large company –
>>    months to years for mid-size companies – may be too complex for
>>    small companies until native platforms come built with this and
>>    they can upgrade), and
>> 
>>    2.       There are perhaps larger privacy issues here with the use
>>    of Digital Fingerprints.  Some advocates (you don’t appear to be
>>    with them) believe that a cookie is a better tool than a Digital
>>    Fingerprint as consumers have control of cookies – whereas with a
>>    Digital Fingerprint they do not (at least not in a simple, native
>>    tool perspective).  I’m personally on the side of Cookies as I
>>    believe the control factor and the wealth of automated tools for
>>    blocking and purging them is a better outcome for consumers than
>>    are Digital Fingerprints.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Side Note:  Digital Fingerprints are argued by some vendors to be
>>    far more effective for tracking due to the lack of consumer
>>    control and the realities of cookie churn.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    - Shane
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    *From:* Jonathan Mayer [mailto:jmayer@stanford.edu] 
>>    *Sent:* Friday, February 10, 2012 10:16 AM
>>    *To:* Justin Brookman
>>    *Cc:* public-tracking@w3.org <mailto:public-tracking@w3.org>
>>    *Subject:* Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25,
>>    ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Thinking more about tracking through IP address + User-Agent
>>    string, it occurs to me that the greatest challenges are stability
>>    over time and across locations.  For some of the "operational
>>    uses" we have discussed, time- and geography- limited tracking may
>>    be adequate.  Scoping the "operational use" exceptions to protocol
>>    data would somewhat accommodate those uses without allowing for
>>    new data collection, and it would be easier to implement than a
>>    client-side privacy-preserving technology.  Thoughts on whether
>>    this is a possible new direction for compromise?
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Jonathan
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    On Feb 10, 2012, at 8:30 AM, Jonathan Mayer wrote:
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Justin,
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    I think you may be misreading the state of research on tracking
>>    through IP address + User-Agent string.  There is substantial
>>    evidence that some browsers can be tracked in that way some of the
>>    time.  I am not aware of any study that compares the global
>>    effectiveness of tracking through IP address + User-Agent string
>>    vs. an ID cookie; intuitively, the ID cookie should be far more
>>    effective.  The news story you cite glosses over important caveats
>>    in that paper's methodology; it is certainly not the case that
>>    "62% of the time, HTTP user-agent information alone can accurately
>>    tag a host."
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Jonathan
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    On Feb 9, 2012, at 6:48 PM, Justin Brookman wrote:
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>    Sure.  As the spec current reads, third-party ad networks are
>>    allowed to serve contextual ads on sites even when DNT:1 is on,
>>    yes?  In order to do this, they're going to get log data, user
>>    agent string, device info, IP address, referrer url, etc.  There
>>    is growing recognition that that information in and of itself can
>>    be used to uniquely identify devices over time
>>    (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/020212-microsoft-anonymous-255667.html)
>>    for profiling purposes.  It was my understanding that one of the
>>    primary arguments against allowing third parties to place unique
>>    identifiers on the client was because of the concern that they
>>    were going to be secretly tracking and building profiles using
>>    those cookies.  My point is that they will be able to do that
>>    regardless, with little external ability to audit.  This system is
>>    going to rely to some extent on trust unless we are proposing to
>>    fundamentally rearchitecture the web.
>> 
>>    The other argument that I've heard against using unique cookies
>>    for this purpose is valid, though to me less compelling: that even
>>    if just used for frequency capping, third parties are going to be
>>    able to amass data about the types of ads a device sees, from
>>    which you could surmise general information about the sites
>>    visited on that device (e.g., you are frequency capping a bunch of
>>    sports ads --> ergo, the operator of that device probably visiting
>>    sports pages).  Everyone seems to agree that it would be improper
>>    for a company to use this information to profile (meta-profile?),
>>    but there are still concerns about data breach, illegitimate
>>    access, and government access of this potentially revealing
>>    information.  This concerns me too, but the shadow of my .url
>>    stream is to me considerably less privacy sensitive than my actual
>>    .url stream.  I could be willing to compromise on a solution that
>>    allowed for using cookies for frequency capping, if there was
>>    agreement on limiting to reasonable campaign length, rules against
>>    repurposing, and a requirement to make an accountable statement of
>>    adherence to the standard.  I would be interested to hear if it
>>    would be feasible to not register frequency caps for ads for
>>    sensitive categories of information (or if at all, cap
>>    client-side), though again, it's important to keep in mind that
>>    that data may well be collected and retained for other excepted
>>    purposes under the standard (e.g., fraud prevention) --- cookie or
>>    not.  
>> 
>>    *From:* Jonathan Mayer [mailto:jmayer@stanford.edu]
>>    *To:* Justin Brookman [mailto:justin@cdt.org]
>>    *Cc:* public-tracking@w3.org <mailto:public-tracking@w3.org>
>>    *Sent:* Thu, 09 Feb 2012 18:32:19 -0500
>>    *Subject:* Re: Deciding Exceptions (ISSUE-23, ISSUE-24, ISSUE-25,
>>    ISSUE-31, ISSUE-34, ISSUE-49)
>> 
>>    Justin, could you explain what you mean here?
>> 
>>    Thanks,
>>    Jonathan
>> 
>>    On Feb 9, 2012, at 3:17 PM, Justin Brookman wrote:
>> 
>>> the standard currently recognizes that third parties are
>>    frequently going to be allowed to obtain uniquely-identifying user
>>    agent strings despite the presence of a DNT:1 header
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> 
Received on Friday, 10 February 2012 20:05:53 UTC

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