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Support for ISSUE 143 - EDUCATED Consumer Choice Should Be REQUIRED

From: Chris Mejia <chris.mejia@iab.net>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2012 20:58:28 +0000
To: W3C DNT Working Group Mailing List <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-ID: <CBE2B1F9.1A787%chris.mejia@iab.net>
W3C Tracking Protection Working Group:

A DNT choice mechanism is fundamentally flawed when it does not rest on the basic tenant of user-educated and informed choice. I'm concerned that this working group is setting up an impossible situation for compliancy:  without a clear requirement for the user to be informed/educated about the choice they are making, at the point of that choice (in the user-interface), publishers who receive DNT:1 signals will have no (up-front) way to understand what the user's ACTUAL intent was when making their choice, and thus will not understand how to "honor" such choices.  Without users having a common understanding of what it means to turn on DNT, users will be setting/sending the DNT:1 header flag for a myriad of different reasons, representing many different "choices," based on their individual understandings of what "tracking," "privacy," or "do-not-track" mean, as influenced (or not influenced) by the user-interface they were exposed to when making/setting their choice.  This 'many choices = one outcome' model is fundamentally flawed and does not serve the best interest of users or the websites they visit.

I have heard the argument that "users won't get-it" or "it's too complicated for users" or "users won't care"; my reply is, "then why are we doing this in the first place?"  Which market requirement are we replying to with DNT:1 = MANY/CHOOSE?  I find it highly irresponsible and even reckless to put a [powerful] choice mechanism in front of users without providing users the qualified information and context necessary to understand what that choice represents/does, and how it will affect them and the websites/businesses they frequent/support.  It's akin to saying, "you might need this gun for personal defense- it's free, take it," but not letting people know what the gun does. "What happens when I pull this trigger?"  "Just take the gun." Reckless.

In support of Open Issue 143 (http://www.w3.org/2011/tracking-protection/track/issues/143), I believe this working group's work-product should REQUIRE that users receive a qualified [by this group] message regarding their DNT choice, AS that choice is presented to the user in the UI, for ALL programs that seek COMPLIANCE with this initiative— the technical requirement of this disclosure should be a mandated and required component of compliance.  Failing the inclusion of this important component, compliance (the general compliance document) should not be contemplated at all.  Adding the notion/suggestion of informed consent to a "best practices" document/addendum is not nearly sufficient; it leaves open too many loopholes will introduce market confusion.

Some members of this working group believe that the "solution" to this problem is for publishers to ascertain a user's actual choice expression/intention by messaging all users who transmit the DNT:1 header flag, asking the silly question, "I see you have chosen not to be tracked, so I just wanted to re-confirm, do you REALLY not want to be tracked?" allowing for an "exception" when a user answers "oh no, I didn't really mean THAT."  Come on all… Why do you want to push the burden of informing consumers, downstream onto publishers?  The end game of your flawed "logic" is that the Web becomes a battlefield of annoying privacy pop-up land mines for consumer to navigate— a battle played out on publisher pages, and at publisher's expense.  Doesn't it make MUCH more sense to require that the original choice be made by adequately informed users, up-front in the DNT user-interface, at the point of choice?

Finally, I want to point out that user education and informed consent are basic core tenants of the interactive advertising industry's [DAA's] self-regulation program for online behavioral advertising (http://www.aboutads.info/)— a program that's been very successful and praised as a model for all industry, by government (including The White House, FTC and Dept. of Commerce), regulators, lawmakers and consumers alike.  Thus far, those basic tenants are missing in DNT.  If we are going to do this, then let's get it right— we all have a responsibility to get it right, and serve the BEST interests of informed consumers.

Chris Mejia, IAB/DAA
Received on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 20:59:20 UTC

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