RE: Formal Objection to the Decision Regarding A “Tri-­part choice requirement for users agents.”

Dear David,

The selection and operation of the UA is often a choice of the user.

Even if the proposal attempted to place requirements on the UA UI it would be impossible to enforce without invading user privacy because their choice of UA and UI is a private matter.

You could try to examine the User-Agent header, but if you start using this to discriminate against users based on a lack of compliance then the user can just spoof this header.

You could try to use a JS API to probe the user agent, but users may rightfully consider this an invasion of their privacy and block it.

Even if a UA did honestly communicate the User-Agent header, if you try and dictate the UI then the UA can just add a meta option to allow the user to switch between your desired UI and their preferred UI.

You just don't control the UA so the Chair probably made the correct call.

If you want to give users more choice then publish your own UA or extension that does what you want and pitch it to users - and let the market sort out the matter.  Perhaps you could work on making the DNT UI customizable via extensions so it would be easy to give users choice?  Some browser developers may be sympathetic to such a proposal, especially if you could help fund the work.

I dispute the goal of making all options equally accessible.  The options have very different safety levels for users and it is only common sense that a device should default to the safe option.

Use case: Parents may well want to lock off an option panel that allows children to change browser safety settings.

If you feel there is an abuse of market share then you have my sympathy and support for offering users choice of UA and UI, but attempting to dictate the UA UI design via this forum is probably not going to help you because it is probably not possible for this forum to dictate the UA UI.


Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2012 12:21:11 -0400
Subject: Formal Objection to the Decision Regarding A “Tri-­part choice requirement for users agents.”


    Dear Director, TPWG Chairs, and all participants in the TPWG,


    In response to the Chairs' decision on the tri-part choice
    requirement for user agents, we are submitting the following formal


         Formal Objection to the
              TPWG Chairs’ Decision Regarding A “Tri-­part choice
              requirement for users agents.” 
          For the reasons set out below, we object to the
              Chairs' decision with regard to a
              "Tri-­‐part choice requirement for user agents," (see
              respectfully request the
              Director and the Chairs to reconsider and instead adopt
              Option B, the tri-­‐part
              requirement, as the decision of the working group. In sum,
              Option B is the only
              option that meets the group’s aims and the requirements of
              the charter, because it
              goes to ensuring users have an adequate range of choices
              available to them.
          The decision followed a working group poll in
              which two options were presented,
              and working group participants were asked to state
              objections to either of the
              options. Option A was "silence"; User Agent's (UAs) as
              currently defined in the draft
              specification would not be required in the specification
              "to provide a DNT:0 option
              that is equally easy to turn on as DNT:1." Option B, on
              the other hand, would create
              mandatory guidelines requiring that a "user agent MUST
              require equal effort to
              configure their agent to each of a minimum of three
              choices for a Do Not Track
              preference: 1, 0 or unset."
          This is a crucial issue for the specification,
              as it goes to the fundamental problem of
              whether a DNT signal sent by a UA, and received by a
              server, reflects an informed,
              deliberate choice by the user. It has implications for the
              credibility and ultimate
              adoption rate of the specification.
          The Co-­‐Chairs' decision misunderstands or
              mischaracterizes the objections to
              Option A, and the strength thereof, and implements a
              decision that is inconsistent
              with the aims and charter of the TPWG, and that is not
              conducive to the success of
              the specification.
          The TPWG’s mission includes “improv[ing] user
              privacy and user control by
              defining mechanisms for expressing user preferences around
              Web tracking,” and
              the group’s charter calls for a “simple machine-­‐readable
              preference expression
              mechanism.” The goal of simplicity and the infeasibility
              of complex user interfaces
              necessitate a limiting of users’ choice. This is natural.
              However, in limiting choices,
              we limit information, and run the risk that a user’s
              choices are inadequately
              informed. Moreover, with the ability to limit users’
              choices often comes centralized
              control that can be misused to influence markets. This has
              been the case in the past
              in many markets, including telephone service, web
              browsers, and automobiles.
              Recall Henry Ford’s famous quote: “Any customer can have a
              car painted any color
              that he wants so long as it is black.”
            So, therefore, the problem becomes one of
                degree. What is the minimum availability
                of choices that is needed to ensure users have a real
                choice beyond just “black” or
                nothing? The proposed option, Option B, addresses this
                issue in a minimally
                prescriptive way that allows user agents extremely broad
                latitude to craft user
                interfaces, while meeting simple guidelines around the
                relative availability of
                alternative DNT choices. Option A leaves the issue
                without guidance, and entirely to
                the whims of user agent designers who, for one reason or
                another, may not care to
                give the user much control. Therefore, the Chairs erred
                in deciding to adopt Option
                A over Option B.
            The Co-­‐Chairs' decision was organized
                according to "themes" that were elucidated
                from participants' comments. Although we disagree with
                the framing of the
                "themes," for clarity we follow their format and address
                themes individually.
            A. Support of EU and other Compliance

                Under their response regarding this theme, the
                Co-­‐Chairs rightly point out that legal
                compliance is not a goal of the TPWG. However, the
                Co-­‐Chairs missed the point of
                various participants' comments regarding consent: that
                ensuring users are able to
                express an informed and meaningful choice is a
                legitimate and necessary goal, and
                not just a matter of legal compliance. The TPWG has
                already discussed and is near
                consensus on the view that DNT must reflect users'
                choice and that, for example,
                DNT on by default would generally not be reflective of a
                user's choice. One pending
                option in the TCS document provides explicit guidelines
                for achieving explicit and
                informed consent from a user. Option A does not provide
                UA's adequate guidance
                regarding what is required to achieve users' explicit
                and informed consent. Only
                Option B provides such guidance.
            B. Incomplete specification of user agents

                On this point – that without specification UA's "may
                implement DNT in undesirable
                ways" – the Co-­‐Chairs' rejected objections to Option A
                (and support of Option B)
                under the rationale that the TPWG charter does not allow
                specification of UI. Under
                Option B, however, does not specify UI, but would
                provide guidelines that define
                user experience, as allowed under the charter. The
                Option says only that the three
                states must require equal effort; it does not specify
                how this is to be achieved, or
                otherwise in what form the choices must be presented. It
                does not even require that
                they be presented together. Rather, it requires that
                each be accessible with equal
                effort. This guideline is intended to ensure the user's
                choice rises to the level of
                informed consent required by the standard. This intent
                was raised in the objections
                to Option A, but disregarded, or misinterpreted by the
                Co-­‐Chairs in making their
            D. Ability to validate against the spec

                Here the Co-­‐Chairs side with comments suggesting
                Option B would add untestable
                elements to the specification. If testability is a
                requirement for elements of the
                specification, then much of the specification fails. Not
                once yet has testability been
                raised as a requirement for any element of the TCS, and
                no such requirement exists
            in the charter. Although testability is an
                obvious need for true technical
                specifications, as the W3C ordinarily produces,
                testability under many elements of
                the TCS document is virtually hopeless. For example,
                elements of the specification
                rely on such vague and untestable standards as "infer
                with a high probability,"
                "confidence," "reasonably necessary," "reasonable
                efforts," and so on. To apply a
                testability standard to only UI guidance, but not other
                crucial elements of the
                specification would be an untenable double standard.
            E. Ability to express actual user

                Here, in rejecting the argument that the three state
                requirement is essential to
                ensuring fully informed consent, the Co-­‐Chairs reframe
                the issue, stating that "the
                input received does not argue why a 3-­‐state UI is the
                only way to ensure that users
                can express preferences." The Co-­‐Chairs go on to state
                that they "do not conclude
                that all user agents must offer all preferences for all
                users as the only way" for users
                to find ways to express their preferences. The decision
                misses the point. First,
                Option B does not require a 3-­‐state UI, but only that
                UA's "require equal effort to
                configure their agent to each of a minimum of three
                choices." But more importantly,
                Option A, silence, does not ensure that users have the
                opportunity to fully
                understand their choices and make an informed choice. It
                is not a matter of users
                finding ways to express their preferences. It is a
                matter of ensuring that users have
                the opportunity to express adequately informed choices.
            F. Simplicity, Innovation and
                  Differentiation for User Agents

                In agreeing with objections to Option B, the chairs
                state that "specifying a user
                interface is out of scope by our charter." This
                mischaracterizes Option B. The charter
                states that "while guidelines that define the user
                experience or user interface may
                be useful (and within scope), the Working Group will not
                specify the exact
                presentation to the user." Option B does not specify the
                exact presentation, but
                rather states guidelines that must be met to ensure
                users have adequate access to
                the full range of choices available under the standard.
                This is far from specifying UI,
                and leaves considerable latitude to UA makes to
                determine how the guidelines will
                be met.
            G. Unbiased Representation

                The Chairs dismiss concerns about bias and fairness on
                the part of UA's, saying
                they "have not seen evidence as to why requiring all
                three options with equal effort
                satisfies the goal of fairness." It is self-­‐evident
                that in many cases companies with
                competitive interests at stake, and that stand to
                benefit from widespread DNT
                usage, also control users' experience of the Internet.
                Requiring that UA's satisfy
                guidelines with regard to equitable availability of all
                DNT options is a minimally
                prescriptive means to try to limit the extent to which
                competitive interests are not
                at play in UA’s influencing users' DNT choices, and that
                therefore a DNT signal
                reflects a truly informed choice.



                For the reasons above, and in the interest of producing
                a specification that is
                credible, fair, and that will garner widespread
                adoption, we respectfully request the Director and the
                TPWG Chairs to reconsider this decision with regard to a
                tri-­part choice requirement for user agents.
            We thank you for your consideration.


            Jason Bier, ValueClick

                Alan Chapell, Chapell & Associates

                Brooks Dobbs, KBMG

                Marc Groman, NAI

                Dan Jaffe, ANA

                Peter Kosmala, 4A’s

                Lou Mastria, DAA

                Dick O’Brien, 4A’s

                Clark Rector, AAF

                Brendan Riordan-­‐Butterworth, IAB

                Rachel Nyswander Thomas, DMA

                David Wainberg, NAI

                Shane Wiley, Yahoo!

                Jeff Wilson, AOL

                Kimon Zorbas, IAB Europe


Received on Friday, 5 October 2012 00:52:39 UTC