Re: Draft Text on First Parties and Third Parties (ACTION-34, ISSUE-10, ISSUE-26, ISSUE-88)

>From our perspective, we have a several issues with this latest draft as it
stands, and no, we don't think it's workable - we need to make sure, as a
group, that the language is clear and implementable if we hope to see any
adoption of the standard. The current draft allows for enough vagueness
that evolving and contradictory interpretations would be possible across
multiple regulatory environments.

The initial version of this issue language was short and easy to
understand, and I think that's one of the reasons that we all liked it
conceptually. This is long, hard to understand and open to multiple
interpretations. It also draws in many other active issues (definitional
and otherwise) and takes them in directions other than the one that our
original discussions indicated.

An objective standard with respect to what a first party is critical,
because companies and individuals who adopt this standard publicly are
rightly expected by both the general public and regulators to do what they
say. But the potential for evolving and variant interpretations of user
perception and common branding make it unclear what is being signed up for
exactly. I think we need a first party definition that is based on
ownership (and being adequately clear in disclosing that ownership, whether
in a privacy policy or in branding/logo/etc). This is an objective standard
that allows websites to clearly understand what they are signing up for
when they adopt DNT.

User perception is useful to think about and certainly should impact the
way that we approach the spec, but it's unworkable to ask companies,
developers, and hobbyists to work based on a spec that is this subjective.
Does this mean that a website consisting solely of python coding resources
is evaluated on a different standard than a porn site, simply because their
'average user' is different? And do we have any kind of indication that
users do or don't understand the things weíre talking about? Perception and
intention are vague and subjective.

Iím also a bit worried that the requirement for prominent branding for
diverse companies - think news websites -- might be required to co-brand
themselves with all the other news sites in the network - increasing
consumer confusion. When youíre on Flickr it may be clear to the user that
Yahoo uses data from Flickr as a first party, but when youíre on Yahoo, do
you need to prominently co-brand the site as Flickr too? And what if you
also brand the site with a third party logo? Do they become first parties?

An additional use case that illustrates the compleities involved is URL
shorteners, assume that the user clicked on the shortened link. Why don't
they expect that they are interacting with that party, ie the link
shortener? What about the link shortener - is that branded in such a
way that they know they are interacting with Google, even though thatís not
where they end up? How exactly do you assume that users donít
interact with <> There are several scenarios here -
the user does or doesnít see the URL, the user clicks on a link that is
directed to the shortened URL which either does or doesnít indicate that
itís a shortened link (but is likely to indicate the final destination of
the shortened link). These either need to be fleshed out or we need to
decide how to deal with shorteners as first parties.

How would a restriction on URL shorteners as redirection impact sites
(often news sites) that redirect a human-readable URL ( to a machine readable URL ( from a legacy CMS?

Finally, on the topic of mash-ups, I think the mashup idea needs to be
fleshed out and accounted for, simply because the incorporation of content
on websites is common and useful. Even if it makes up a small percentage of
web traffic today, this is an area of innovation that will probably
increase greatly over time. If Google, for example, wants to be DNT
compliant, we need to account for this in the context of Google Reader. And
the many blogs I read are (many of whom have analytics and/or share
buttons) by and large going to assume that they are first party, without
concerning themselves with whether or not their content is being consumed
via an aggregator. Figuring out where aggregators fit into this is key, and
we should either say that a content feed that is proactively added by the
user with the understanding that it will appear on the first party site
(like Reader) is first party content, or that the first party is not
responsible for the content of the page.

Heather (and Sean)

On Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 11:33 AM, Justin Brookman <> wrote:

>  I would revise the definition of first party to "A first party is, in a
> specific network interaction, the operator of the domain with which the
> user intended to communicate."  I would remove the entire section about
> multiple first parties as I do not believe a realistic example has been
> presented where that would ever be the case.  In the example of the
> craigslist/Google Maps mashup, whichever of the two is the actual operator
> of the domain should be the first party and the other would be the third
> party (or, if an entirely different entity operates the mashup, as appears
> to be the case at, the operator of HousingMaps is the first
> party and craigslist and Google are third parties if they're present at
> all).  Third parties can still become first parties if their content is
> clearly branded and a user meaningfully interacts with the content.
> Writing a spec for the extreme and unprecedented edge case
> will cause more uncertainty and
> invite abuse while not solving an actual problem.  Domains have one
> operator; until co-registration becomes an option, sticking with one first
> party makes sense.
> I like David's proposed counterexample to 4.1(a).  I believe my above
> suggestion should take the place of his counterexample to 4.1(b) (though
> both are designed to achieve the same goal).
> On the call, we seemed to agree that it should be a necessary condition
> for an entity to be under common corporate control as the site operator in
> order to be a first party (or a third party who gets permission to track).
> Thus, I would revise the definition of party to: "A 'party' is any person
> or commercial, nonprofit, or governmental organization, as well as any
> person or organization that operates under the same corporate or
> governmental control as the party and [discoverability/branding/user
> perception --- whatever test we use]."
> I will again make the argument that branding seems the more reasonable and
> concrete test here, and will provide the most certainty for users and
> companies, but I await Shane's pitch for why discoverability is
> sufficiently clear to users (or Jonathan's counterpitch on why "user
> perception" is sufficiently workable).
> I would also add .url shortener services as a specific example of a third
> party with which the user was not intending to communicate.
> Justin Brookman
> Director, Consumer Privacy Project
> Center for Democracy & Technology
> 1634 I Street NW, Suite 1100
> Washington, DC 20006
> tel 202.407.8812
> fax 202.637.0969justin@cdt.org
> @CenDemTech
> @JustinBrookman
> On 1/4/2012 6:51 PM, Jonathan Robert Mayer wrote:
> Understood. I took my own notes, and we'll work from the minutes. If
> others would like to write up their proposed changes, that would be most
> helpful,
>  Jonathan
> On Jan 4, 2012, at 3:46 PM, David Singer <> wrote:
>  To be clear, I only provide the edits I personally suggested;  I think
> all of us were asked to be precise about what we were suggesting, and I
> didn't do anyone else's suggestions.
>  On Jan 4, 2012, at 15:42 , Jonathan Robert Mayer wrote:
>   Thanks for taking notes. Tom and I will revise the text to incorporate
> what we heard on today's call. Much of the focus was on the edge cases of
> mashups and inadvertantly embedded content - which strongly suggests to me
> that we're very close to consensus.
>  The two outstanding high-level concerns that I recall are:
>  1) Are the standards we provide workable in practice? I believe close
> calls will be very rare, and only companies gaming the margin would have to
> consider surveying users. Heather was less sure. Heather, could you suggest
> a few common use cases that lead to a difficult analysis under the draft's
> standards?
>  2) Shane suggested (and a few supported) moving to a
> user-is-able-to-discover-information standard for what's a party and what's
> a first or third party. Shane, could you briefly sketch what this standard
> might look like and give a few examples where it would work a different
> result from our user expectations standard?
>  Jonathan
> On Jan 4, 2012, at 1:27 PM, David Singer <> wrote:
>  Here are my comments/suggestions, after this morning's call.
>  1) section 2.1.  Make clear that the user is a party, or specifically
> say that the definition defines parties that may be 1st or 3rd.
>   also raise an issue for a clear definition of what falls into the 2nd
> party?? (e.g. software or other agents acting on the user's behalf??)
>  2) section 2.1.  Consider adding the condition that two separate legal
> entities cannot be considered a single party (in our context).
>  3) section 2.1.  Add an issue that we may want to strengthen the
> definition to the point where it is testable.
>  4) section 4.1.  Make the definitions of what is a 1st party a list of
> conditions, all of which apply.
>  5) section 4.1.  Add to the list of conditions:
>   a) the user must be directly aware of the existence and identity of a
> separate entity, prior to their interaction.
>   b) the user's makes an independent choice to communicate/interact with
> the entity.
>  Counter-examples to (a) are a weather or other widget with no obvious
> branding or other evidence to show it came from another organization or
> entity; the user is not aware of a separate identity behind it.
> Counter-examples to (b) are where sites are mash-ups of unpredictable
> sources; the user, by visiting the mash-up, chose only the mashing site as
> the first party; until the user interacts further, the mashed sites are
> third parties (and rule (a) applies as well - the user must be aware that
> they are mashed in, and not sourced by the mashing site).
>  On Dec 22, 2011, at 15:25 , Jonathan Mayer wrote:
>  Tom and I have worked for several weeks on a comprehensive draft of the
> sections delineating first parties and third parties.  We attempted to
> reflect the approaching-consensus discussion at Santa Clara and on the
> email list.  Our draft includes both operative standards language and
> non-normative explanation and examples.  The text is formatted with the W3C
> template to better resemble how it would appear in the final document;
> please note that this is *not* an Editor's Draft (as the template might
> suggest).
>  Jonathan
>  <parties-draft-jm-tl.html>
>    David Singer
> Multimedia and Software Standards, Apple Inc.
>    David Singer
> Multimedia and Software Standards, Apple Inc.


Heather West | Google Policy | | 202-643-6381

Received on Thursday, 5 January 2012 22:40:01 UTC