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RE: ISSUE-16, ACTION-166: define (data) collection

From: Kevin Smith <kevsmith@adobe.com>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2012 10:11:20 -0700
To: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>, "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@gbiv.com>
CC: "public-tracking@w3.org Group WG" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-ID: <6E120BECD1FFF142BC26B61F4D994CF309994C024F@nambx07.corp.adobe.com>
>I would think if some web service says it does not collect information on user's screen resolution, but a script quite obviously obtains such information from the browser and sends it back to the service, people would feel mislead.

The degree to which someone may feel misled by a privacy policy seems quite irrelevant as it is entirely a function of what was communicated and how it was communicated.  I think your example backs up Roy's point quite nicely and showcases why we need a clear definition of data collection.

There is nothing wrong with a server knowing the screen resolution of the client to which it will serve content.  There is also nothing wrong with a server having a counter in its database that counts the # of visitors with a specific screen resolution so that future contents can be optimized to the match the majority of the viewer's preferences.  Neither of these examples need to tie screen resolution to a particular user in any way, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with DNT (until and unless that data is tied to a user).

This exchange highlights how badly our progress is hampered by having vague and contradictory definitions of common terms.  If I think DNT prevents a 3rd party from tying screen resolution to a user and Bjoern thinks DNT means that the 3rd party is not even allowed to know the screen resolution - then we might as well be back at MIT for our first f2f because very little of the two documents actually mean anything.  We are simply honing in on exactly how to communicate that you may or may not do something vaguely internet related.

We are supposed to approaching the finish line, but it is clear we are still not sure which race we are running.

Kevin Smith  |  Engineering Manager  |  Adobe  |  385.221.1288 |  kevsmith@adobe.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Bjoern Hoehrmann [mailto:derhoermi@gmx.net] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 4:40 PM
To: Roy T. Fielding
Cc: public-tracking@w3.org Group WG
Subject: Re: ISSUE-16, ACTION-166: define (data) collection

* Roy T. Fielding wrote:
>I think we all should understand that collection implies gathering 
>together and at least some form of retention.  The above joke by Steven 
>Wright depends on the audience knowing that.  We can collect seashells 
>by taking them off the beach, not by merely walking by them.
>We can collect photos of seashells by taking each one's picture and 
>retaining that picture, not by snapping the shot and then deleting it 
>from memory.

I do agree there is an element of "retention" in "collection", but your interpretation seems to imply that you can do certain things with data even though you have never collected that data, and I think some people would find that contradictory.

The joke depends on the idea that all the seashells on the beaches on the planet have come under the control of Steven Wright at some point who then put them roughly where they are today. That is a surprising idea if you usually assume that no human being could or would do that.

If you are at some beach and pick up a seashell and then throw it at a specific location, are you collection seashells in that place? What if you throw them across a border you cannot cross? What if you throw the shells into a bucket filled with hydrochloric acid? What if you are a magician, ask people to give you seashells, put them somewhere, and if people look at where you apparently put them, they are not there, so, did you actually collect the shells?

Your analogies suffer from a number of problems, if you walk past the seashells they do not actually come under your control. And photos of them, well, you are presenting a white box example. When a stranger follows you around taking photos of you, you might worry that they are collecting photos of you, and would still do so if you confront them and they say, oh, the camera deletes all the pictures from memory.

When you visit a web page and a script on it determines the resolution of your screen or your timezone or whatever, and sends that information to some server, I would say someone or something is collecting that in- formation, even if it does not last long on the server. They gather it in one place, on that server. I would think if some web service says it does not collect information on user's screen resolution, but a script quite obviously obtains such information from the browser and sends it back to the service, people would feel mislead.

(Consider the same point for information that is not usually used to adapt content, like which web pages you have recently visited or which fonts you have installed; would it be wrong to accume someone that they are "collecting" this information if their web pages obtain this and also transmit it back to the server, if there is no particular reason to do so for content adaption purposes?)
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de Am Badedeich 7 · Telefon: +49(0)160/4415681 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
25899 Dagebüll · PGP Pub. KeyID: 0xA4357E78 · http://www.websitedev.de/ 
Received on Friday, 25 May 2012 17:13:35 UTC

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