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Re: Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology Paper outlining harms of tracking

From: Alan Chapell <achapell@chapellassociates.com>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2012 15:33:06 -0400
To: Jeffrey Chester <jeff@democraticmedia.org>
CC: <public-tracking@w3.org>, Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
Message-ID: <CC9C8BFB.232C0%achapell@chapellassociates.com>
Hi Jeff - 

It is significantly more productive to tie it back to what harms are
purportedly going to be addressed by the DNT standard.

As I'm providing input into Permitted Uses, I've argued for some flexibility
so as to avoid putting third parties in a position where they are
conflicting either with DNT or another competing standard. This argument has
received some pushback. Some in the group believe that DNT should just trump
all competing or conflicting standards - which I believe is impractical.

As a result, I've asked you, Jonathan and others for some real-life examples
on the harms they are trying to minimize so that I can help tailor Permitted
Uses to address those harms. Thus far, I've received information on a) harms
that are out of the scope of DNT, b) high level examples that are incredibly
vague to as to make it almost impossible to find practical approaches to
address the purported harms in our work here. If this is all they can offer,
well then it might be time to remove those objections to flexibility in
Permitted Users so the group can move forward productively.

So I'm not sure why you're asking me this question. I struggle to find the
harm that this group is attempting to address. You and your colleagues are
the ones telling the world the the proverbial sky is falling. And if the
professionals who have made these issues their life's work are unable to
provide specific, real world examples, please point me to those who areŠ


From:  Jeffrey Chester <jeff@democraticmedia.org>
Date:  Thursday, October 11, 2012 1:19 PM
To:  Alan Chapell <achapell@chapellassociates.com>
Cc:  <public-tracking@w3.org>, Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
Subject:  Re: Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology Paper
outlining harms of tracking

> Alan.  Could you please clarify.  Are you saying that you and/or your clients
> believe that the loss of privacy from contemporary digital marketing practices
> is not a "harm."  This will help in the discussion.
> Regards,
> Jeff
> Jeffrey Chester
> Center for Digital Democracy
> 1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 550
> Washington, DC 20009
> www.democraticmedia.org <http://www.democraticmedia.org>
> www.digitalads.org <http://www.digitalads.org>
> 202-986-2220
> On Oct 10, 2012, at 4:55 PM, Alan Chapell wrote:
>> Hi Jonathan - 
>> In addition to my questions below, I'm curious whether your research has
>> documented specific examples of these harms occurring in the real world?
>> Thanks again,
>> Alan
>> From:  Alan Chapell <achapell@chapellassociates.com>
>> Date:  Saturday, October 6, 2012 5:14 AM
>> To:  <public-tracking@w3.org>, Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
>> Subject:  Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology Paper outlining
>> harms of tracking
>>> Hi Jonathan - 
>>> A few days ago, you invited me (via IRC) to review your recent paper which 
>>> among other items  outlines some of the potential harms of tracking. (See
>>> https://www.stanford.edu/~jmayer/papers/trackingsurvey12.pdf)
>>> Thanks  As you may have noticed, I've been asking a number of folks in the
>>> WG for examples of harms and haven't received very much information in
>>> response. So I want to applaud your effort to help provide additional
>>> information and to facilitate a dialog. That said, I want to make sure I
>>> understand your thinking here  or at least help clarify some of the
>>> distinctions you may be drawing.
>>> I'm curious whether your position is that those harms are equally apparent
>>> in a first party setting  where a first party utilizes their own data for
>>> ad targeting across the internet? For example, in your scenario where "an
>>> actor that causes harm to a consumer." Is that not also possible in a first
>>> party context? Does the first party not have both "the means", "the access"
>>> and at least potentially, the ability to take the  "action" that causes the
>>> harms you lay out? (e.g., "Publication, a less favorable offer, denial of a
>>> benefit, or termination of employment. Last, a particular harm that is
>>> inflicted. The harm might be physical, psychological, or economic.")
>>> Do you believe that a direct relationship between consumers and first party
>>> websites completely mitigates that risk of harm  even where the first
>>> parties have significant stores of personally identifiable data?
>>> Has your position evolved over the past few months? Correct me if I'm
>>> mistaken, but I believe that one of the proposals offered by Mozilla /
>>> Stanford and EFF sought to address forms of first party tracking. Do I have
>>> that correct?
>>> Thanks  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
>>> Excerpt from your paper for the convenience of others.
>>> "When considering harmful web tracking scenarios, we find it helpful to
>>> focus on four variables. First, an actor that causes harm to a consumer. The
>>> actor might, for example, be an authorized employee, malicious employee,
>>> competitor, acquirer, hacker, or government agency. Second, a means of
>>> access that enables the actor to use tracking data. The data might be
>>> voluntarily transferred, sold, stolen, misplaced, or accidentally
>>> distributed. Third, an action that harms the consumer. The action could be,
>>> for example, publication, a less favorable offer, denial of a benefit, or
>>> termination of employment. Last, a particular harm that is inflicted. The
>>> harm might be physical, psychological, or economic.
>>> The countless combinations of these variables result in countless possible
>>> bad outcomes for consumers. To ex- emplify ourthinking, here is one commonly
>>> considered scenario: A hacker (actor) breaksinto a tracking company (means
>>> of access) and publishes its tracking information (action), causing some
>>> embarrassing fact about the consumer to become known and inflicting
>>> emotional distress (harm).9
>>> Risks associated with third-party tracking are heightened by the lack of
>>> market pressure to exercise good security and privacy practices. If a
>>> first-party website is untrustworthy, users may decline to visit it. But,
>>> since users are unaware of the very existence of many third-party websites,
>>> they cannot reward responsible sites and penalize irresponsible sites.10"
Received on Thursday, 11 October 2012 19:33:47 UTC

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