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Re: "forced choice" user agent implementation of DNT

From: Roy T. Fielding <fielding@gbiv.com>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2012 19:00:30 -0700
Cc: public-tracking@w3.org
Message-Id: <5BA99A81-FF4B-4BE1-8A12-3E1F699B90B8@gbiv.com>
To: Dan Auerbach <dan@eff.org>
On Oct 12, 2012, at 11:04 AM, Dan Auerbach wrote:

> There has been a lot of discussion on this list about user agents respecting user preference when it comes to setting DNT:1. As a temperature check, I want to make sure we have consensus about the compliance of a "forced user choice" implementation of DNT. For example, a browser during the installation process would have a screen with three radio buttons, none of which are selected, which respectively denote "turn DNT on", "turn DNT off", and "I do not wish to make a selection regarding DNT". In order to proceed, the user would have to make a selection, and nothing would be selected by default. This implementation could appear in the installation process, or, say, as a splash screen that the user must get through after a browser update.

No, not during the installation process.  It makes no sense to
say that a user can make a choice during installation when the
user we are talking about rarely does browser installations.
For example, the IE10 dialogs are never seen by the users of
a PC running Windows 8 unless one of those users happens to
be the admin who did the installation.

What we have talked about is a user choice at any time during the
selection or use of the user agent.  For a general-purpose UA,
it would be fine to have a dialog presented, with neither "on"
nor "off" preselected, when the user's profile is created (or
upon first use after the DNT functionality has been upgraded
for an existing user profile). That is the natural time for
such options, since the choice should be recorded in the user's
own configuration, be applicable to all UAs that share that
user profile, and not have to be asked again every time the UA
is upgraded.

If I were to implement such a dialog, the third option would be
preselected ("I do not wish to make a selection regarding DNT",
a.k.a. "unset").  There is no reason to force a user to make
a choice, since they can configure it later.

> I think it is important to make sure we have consensus on this issue. If I were an ad network, from a business perspective I think I would care much more about the rate of adoption of DNT:1, instead of respecting user preference.

No, that is just machiavellian.  The key is user preference.
If an advertiser truly believes that personalizing an ad for
a given user is going to upset that user, and that the DNT signal
is a reasonably accurate signal of that preference, then it is
the advertiser that will force the ad network to adhere to DNT.
Most of advertising is about establishing brand awareness, and
the advertisers with money have no desire to spend it in a way
that makes their brand annoying.

The rate of adoption of DNT is irrelevant if it reflects an
actual user's preference -- it simply changes the relative
value of ad placement for that user, which may in turn result
in either more ads being displayed or limitations on non-account
use.  The ad networks are not responsible for keeping websites
in business -- they can adjust accordingly.

However, if DNT does not reflect a user's preference, then there
is simply no reason to adhere to it regardless of the signal's
deployment.  Advertisers won't care, so ad networks won't care;
the existing opt-out mechanisms are more accurate than an invalid
DNT signal.

Received on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 02:00:53 UTC

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