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Resignation from the Tracking Protection Working Group

From: Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2013 15:29:25 -0700
To: "public-tracking@w3.org Group WG" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-ID: <DE0ADD42984F4725B776819BEE22B429@gmail.com>
Dear Group Leadership, Staff, and Colleagues,

I hereby resign from the Tracking Protection Working Group, effective July 31, 2013.

Last month, I wrote:
> We first met to discuss Do Not Track over 2 years ago. We have now held 10 in-person meetings and 78 conference calls. We have exchanged 7,148 emails. And those boggling figures reflect just the official fora.
>   
> The group remains at an impasse. We have sharpened issues, and we have made some progress on low-hanging fruit. But we still have not resolved our longstanding key disagreements, including: What information can websites collect, retain, and use? What sorts of user interfaces and defaults are compliant, and can websites ignore noncompliant browsers?
>  
> Our Last Call deadline is July 2013. That due date was initially January 2012. Then April 2012. Then June 2012. Then October 2012. We are 18 months behind schedule, with no end in sight.
>   
> There must come a stopping point. There must come a time when we agree to disagree. If we cannot reach consensus by next month, I believe we will have arrived at that time.
>  
> . . .
>  
> I plan to continue collaborating in good faith right up until our deadline. I remain committed to Do Not Track as a uniform, persistent, easy-to-use, and effective control over collection of a consumer's browsing history. I believe a consensus Do Not Track standard is the best possible outcome for all stakeholders in the web ecosystem.

We have reached the end of July. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. A glance at our issue tracker confirms scant progress.[1]

On substance: The DAA Proposal reflects a radical perspective on Do Not Track that does little to protect consumer privacy. The June Draft has drawn firm objections from myriad and diverse stakeholders; at least 23 contested issues remain formally open.[2] We are, in many respects, further apart than ever before.

On process: We do not have a credible timetable—and we've just adjourned for a month. We do not have a definitive base text.[3] We do not have straightforward guidelines on what amendments are allowed.[4] We do not have clear rules of decision.[5] And even if we were to have procedural commitments, they could be unilaterally cast aside at any time.[6] This is not process: this is the absence of process.

Given the lack of a viable path to consensus, I can no longer justify the substantial time, travel, and effort associated with continuing in the Working Group.

Best of luck to you all.

Sincerely,
Jonathan Mayer

[1] The attached graph plots unclosed issues over time. Data is from the Internet Archive and available at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap60VKj7ieFzdFhsN3Jnd2xHbjFtTThaN09nUVdrNlE&usp=sharing.

[2] I have pasted below a sample of recent comments on the June Draft. (This is intended to be representative, not comprehensive; entries are in alphabetical order.) Group participants from varying perspectives agree: the June Draft does not represent a satisfactory direction.
"The [June Draft] will need to be seriously strengthened to serve as a vehicle that enables a user to make a meaningful DNT decision." Jeffrey Chester, Center for Digital Democracy
"[T]he June Draft does not present a framework that can be implemented and adopted by the vast majority of stakeholders . . . ." Jack Hobaugh, Network Advertising Initiative
"We feel quite strongly that the [June Draft], were it to become adopted as the baseline, would undermine the fundamental models of business and information exchange that have come to define the Internet. It would compromise the benefits of content and services that consumers clearly enjoy. The [June Draft] draws overly broad conclusions on potential privacy harms and does not sufficiently distinguish between content and advertising delivery in contemplating solutions." Peter Kosmala, American Association of Advertising Agencies
"[The June Draft] lacks necessary potential for adoption, protections against signal abuse, and a balanced approach to privacy while preserving a healthy and competitive marketplace. It is unlikely to lead to an outcome that would produce meaningful change to consumer privacy." Brad Kulick, Yahoo!
"[T]he more prudent approach is not to focus on data collection, but rather on responsible, transparent and enforceable data use. . . . The [June] Draft does not [focus on these elements]." Luigi Mastria, Digital Advertising Alliance
"I do not believe that this proposal stands any reasonable chance for widespread industry adoption . . . ." Chris Mejia, Interactive Advertising Bureau
"The [June Draft] would seriously undermine the availability of a broad range of digital content and services that provide value for both consumers and marketers. As such, it would create a W3C standard that could not be implemented across the industry." Keith Scarborough, Association of National Advertisers
"[I]n Consumer Watchdog's view the June Draft text still needs significant improvements . . . ." John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog
"DMA respectfully objects to the Editors’ Draft because we do not believe it provides a sufficient basis to reach a final standard that will both enjoy wide adoption and provide a significant privacy gain for consumers." Rachel Thomas, Direct Marketing Association
"The approach of the June Draft would impair competition in the Internet economy, without a positive net impact for online privacy." David Wainberg, Network Advertising Initiative
"The June Draft doesn’t provide for a framework that will likely be adopted by much, if any, of the online ecosystem that relies on advertising to monetize their free services . . . . The June Draft Tracking definition is overly broad and difficult to interpret for both what is and is not considered to be within scope of DNT." Shane Wiley, Yahoo!


[3] Per ISSUE-214, the longstanding Editor’s Draft remains an option for base text.

[4] As of last Wednesday’s call, it appears amendments will be considered if they a) were submitted before the deadline, b) were a component of the DAA Proposal, c) were a component of the longstanding Editor’s Draft, or d) are related to an amendment under a-c. Any meaningful proposal could qualify under these rules.

[5] Among other open questions: What is the threshold for consensus? When may the chair reconciliation procedure be invoked? Is a decision by the chairs a decision of the group? How may decisions be appealed?

The answers to these questions concern the fundamental legitimacy of the working group. As I wrote in a previous note:
> The W3C rules give our co-chairs de jure discretion in both setting a consensus threshold and resorting to the reconciliation procedure. But there are good reasons we have de facto maintained our decision criteria: we formed this group with the aspiration of reconciling diverse viewpoints, and the group's very legitimacy flows from agreement among the various stakeholder perspectives.

If the group's participants cannot find a mutually agreeable solution, who are we to chart the course for web privacy?

[6] For months we operated with a July 31 deadline, as I detailed in a prior email.

> From the June 19 minutes:
> > It would take an affirmative decision by the group to extend beyond July 31.
>  
>  
> From the July 10 minutes:
> > What I've said before is that we need an affirmative decision by the group about whether to continue after July
>  
>  
> From the July 15 decision on base text:
> > Before the end of July, the group will discuss whether and how to proceed in light of the current Last Call deadline scheduled for the end of July.
>  
>  
> From the July 16 explanatory memorandum:
> > The work of the group has been shaped by the goal of achieving Last Call by the end of July, or, failing that, to bring enough clarity to the process that the group can assess by the end of July whether and how to proceed.
>  
> > Before the end of July, the group will discuss whether and how to proceed in light of the current Last Call deadline scheduled for the end of July.
>  



The chairs unilaterally swept aside the deadline. Even the most firm and clearcut commitments, then, exist solely at the chairs' discretion.





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Received on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 22:30:02 UTC

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