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ACTION-253 ISSUE: 119 and ACTION 208 ISSUE-148 Response signal for "not tracking" and definition for DNT:0

From: David Wainberg <david@networkadvertising.org>
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2012 18:16:48 -0400
Message-ID: <504FB850.4040603@networkadvertising.org>
To: "public-tracking@w3.org" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Hi All,

I am combining these issues because the problems with both are similar. 
I am proposing a) that we drop altogether the idea to have an 
"absolutely not tracking" response, and b) that the meaning of DNT:0 
should be limited to "not DNT:1."

Both ideas, because they create distinct, parallel, and barely defined, 
policies within a policy, create ambiguity and confusion. The result 
will be reluctance to adopt the standard because of the ambiguous legal 
risk it creates. They are also both designed to accomplish aims that are 
beyond the DNT mechanism we are working to define.

First, we should avoid including these policies in the standard just as 
a matter of good drafting. When the point of the standard, and almost 
all of the content in it, pertains to one thing -- the meaning of a 
user's preference not to be tracked (DNT:1) -- tacking on a new 
definition pertaining to something else -- a user's affirmative consent 
for something that may or may not be tracking -- just can't be good. 
Same goes for creating a new state of "not tracking" or "anonymous" that 
has a meaning apart from the meaning of DNT.

On last week's call we already agreed that defining "not tracking" 
without defining "tracking" would be a problem. (It also would be a 
problem if we defined both but with some delta between them; that would 
be exceedingly confusing to implementers and users.)

We would also create confusion by defining DNT:0 as something more than 
not DNT:1, because it creates a mismatch between what is regulated under 
DNT:1 policy and what is then allowed under DNT:0 policy. This is going 
to cause serious heartburn.

One solution that has been proposed for the status flag is that we go 
with a term that does not include "tracking," such as "anonymous." But 
this raises similar issues. The standard addresses tracking. Under the 
standard, users express a preference not to be tracked, and servers 
honor that preference per the standard. There are two states: tracking 
and not tracking. There's no other state required, and to create a third 
state will degrade the clarity of the policy, and will create confusion 
for implementers and users.

Moreover, how are we going to define "anonymous" or "pseudonymous" or 
"foo"? Given that this is an unnecessary appendage anyway, and that we 
can't even define "tracking" in a "do not track" standard, why do we 
want to create the problem of now having to define some other state. To 
include it without a definition would be unacceptable.

Aside from the problems of ambiguity and confusion, both proposals go 
beyond what the TPWG was chartered to accomplish. The not tracking 
signal would create a mechanism to aid a small number of sites who, as 
part of their marketing efforts, are making assertions with regard to 
their privacy practices. Although it may be laudable that they are doing 
this, it's not for this standard to get involved in promoting such 
efforts; they can do so in their marketing materials and in their 
privacy policies.

Similarly, the DNT:0 definition that has been proposed goes too far. It 
creates a wholly new policy, beyond DNT:1, and purports to grant consent 
for practices (e.g. personalization of content) that aren't expressly 
addressed under the DNT:1 policy. Does this imply that those practices 
actually are or should be addressed in the standard? Why aren't they 
called out explicitly?

The TPWG is developing a mechanism for users to express a preference, 
not a general purpose tool for communicating privacy practices, and not 
a tool for promoting certain practices over others. The DNT header 
simply communicates a user's preference not to be tracked. Although we 
are going slightly beyond that in providing for some indications of 
whether or how the recipient is honoring the DNT signal, those 
indications are directly tied to specific aspects of compliance with the 
DNT:1 signal. These proposals go beyond that.

So, for that reason, and because of the ambiguity and confusion I've 
explained, we should drop the "absolutely-not-doing-foo" proposal, and 
we should use the following as a definition for DNT:0.
/
//"DNT:0 means not DNT:1, an express choice that DNT:1 should not apply 
to the recipient server. Although in most cases, this is functionally 
the same as DNT unset, it indicates an affirmative exception granted to 
the recipient, rather than, for example a UA that does not implement 
DNT, or a user that does not use DNT:1 at all."/

If you've gotten this far, thanks for taking the time to plow through my 
long-winded post. I'm sure everyone will let me know if they have questions.

-David
Received on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 22:17:21 UTC

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