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Comments in response to the W3C’s request for public review of the W3C Last Call Working Draft of the Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) dated 24 April 2014

From: Ari Levenfeld <alevenfeld@rocketfuel.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:27:39 -0700
Message-ID: <CAGLR=+R5a3K65DKX=JmMfHVvjBnwVaVLLjwApuRLXGs1Kn0p9A@mail.gmail.com>
To: public-tracking-comments@w3.org
Mr. Justin Brookman, JD
Mr. Carl Cargill
Mr. Matthias Schunter, PhD
Co-Chairs, Tracking Protection Working Group
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

E-mail: public-tracking-comments@w3.org

Re: Comments in response to the W3C’s request for public review of the W3C
Last Call Working Draft of the Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) dated
24 April 2014

Dear Messrs Brookman, Cargill and Schunter:

We submit these comments on behalf of Rocket Fuel Inc. in response to the
call for public comments on the proposed Tracking Preference Expression
(TPE) document published by the co-chairs on April 24, 2014.

Rocket Fuel Inc. is a technology company that delivers a leading
media-buying platform that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence
to improve marketing investments for advertisers across digital media.  We
are proud to be one of many upstanding companies that power the digital
advertising market.  The 2012 study of the Economic Value of the
Advertising–Supported Internet Ecosystem, commissioned by Interactive
Advertising Bureau, and directed by Professor John Deighton of the Harvard
Business School, concluded that between 2007 and 2011 the number of jobs
that rely on the U.S. ad-supported internet doubled to 5.1 Million, and in
2011 the interactive marketing industry contributed $530 Billion to the U.S
economy. The study found that the ad-supported digital industry directly
employs 2 million Americans and indirectly employs another 3.1 million. We
employ over 700 people and continue to hire across the United States and
globally, and in 2013 we were ranked in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™ as
the fastest growing technology company.

We provide services in a privacy friendly manner without collecting
personally identifiable information from consumers. Our advertising is
delivered using anonymous identifiers. Our practices are fully transparent,
our privacy policy easy to understand, our opt-out process simple, and our
delivery of interest-based advertising entirely within a consumer’s
control.  We do not scan email. We do not harvest personal information. We
do not create profiles using real names or addresses.  Among other trade
associations, we are members of the Network Advertising Initiative, and
proudly participate in the Digital Advertising Alliance’s AdChoices
program, which is designed to provide consumers notice and choice about the
interest-based advertising that powers their enjoyment of free content

While we limit our comments to the technical aspects of the TPE, as
requested, we also note that the TPE addresses policy matters beyond the
scope of the proposed technical standard without an adequate policy
framework.  We believe that the original goal of a proposed Do Not Track
setting in browsers was to provide consumers with a means to inform
websites and other service providers of their tracking preferences,
although the scope and nature of that communication has yet to be defined.
 The TPE’s attempt to make policy decisions on what tracking is, and when
DNT signals may be disregarded, does little to further this goal or
consumers’ privacy interests.

The TPE lacks the clarity, transparency and ease of use of other industry
standards such as the Digital Advertising Alliance’s AdChoices program.

Importantly, the TPE does not apply to all parties that may receive a DNT
signal, and it provides complicated exceptions – through definitions of
“tracking” and “context” for example - that allow some parties to ignore
DNT signals.   The consequences of such a standard will not promote privacy
for consumers, but it will serve to artificially skew the collection and
use of anonymous data to inform interest-based advertising into a few,
concentrated hands if adopted or enforced.

There is no corresponding policy framework that provides transparency to
consumers regarding which parties may ignore a DNT signal pursuant to the
TPE and when their DNT selection may be disregarded.  Thus, the TPE does
not provide consumers a true picture of data collection and use.

Nor is there any mechanism to reconcile the DNT signal with other
expressions of consumer choice concerning their consumption of content and
advertising preferences. There is also no mechanism to communicate to a
consumer when conflicting information has been provided to an online
service provider, or which expression of consumer preference will be
respected. How will a consumer know, for example, that selection of “Do Not
Track” in his browser will be ignored by the website or social network that
he is logged into and thus that provider will continue to collect and use
browsing history and perhaps combine it with his personal account
information?  We believe such matters are beyond the scope of the TPE and
that the TPE’s attempt to address such policy issues creates confusion for
consumers and service providers alike.

The specification also contains no mechanism to ensure that DNT signals
actually do reflect consumer choice.  There is no mechanism to prevent
multiple contradictory signals from being sent, and no means to identify
whether a DNT signal was set by someone other than the consumer.  Thus, it
is impossible for service providers receiving the signal to know whether
the signal reflects informed consumer choice. Under the TPE, a DNT signal
may be communicated by a browser, a browser plugin, router or other piece
of software that automatically sets or communicates a DNT signal without
consumers’ knowledge or consent.  These signals may be set by vendors for
their own competitive purposes and have nothing to do with an expression of
consumer choice.  Thus, the TPE provides multiple avenues for abuse of Do
Not Track browser settings without serving, and even to the detriment of,
consumer interests.

This TPE does not promote privacy for consumers, the healthy growth of the
internet, or the economic engine of digital advertising.   We respectfully
submit that the TPE should not become a W3C Recommendation or form the
basis for any standard recommended by the W3C. Thank you for your
consideration of these comments.



JoAnn C. Covington
Chief Privacy Officer

Ari Levenfeld
Director of Privacy and Inventory Quality
Received on Thursday, 19 June 2014 05:28:23 UTC

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