Re: "forced choice" user agent implementation of DNT

On 10/15/2012 07:00 PM, Roy T. Fielding wrote:
> 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.
I agree completely -- my description of the dialog appearing during
installation was imprecise.
> 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 whether or not you pre-select this option would have large
empirical consequences with respect to the adoption of DNT:1, no? Users
like to click through without really reading anything; forcing the issue
on them seems like a reasonable choice to me. In any case, it sounds
like you would not object to an implementation in which the third option
is not preselected, even if this is not how you would do it. Is this
>> 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.
First, thanks for your thoughtful response.

I disagree that most advertising relates to brand awareness. This may be
true in total volume of impressions, but if you look at ad revenue, I
hypothesize that you'll find a different relationship between the
advertiser and the user. This is a bit of a digression but I encourage
you to try to following experiment: create a website and put third-party
ads on it which are contextual by default. Have one section of the
website devoted to forex trading, and measure the relative profit from
the generic area of the website vs the forex area. Investigate the forex
ads (without committing click fraud!) and evaluate the user experience.
Is this a nice landing page that provides a good experience for users?
Is it a thinly veiled arbitrage attempt where the advertiser is trying
to get the user to click more ads or sign up for some sort of affiliate
program? By no means am I suggesting that ALL advertising works in this
way, but there are lots of profitable verticals that I think you'll find
are full of scammy ads.

But suffice it to say that I am think advertisers are looking to
maximize profits, which is different from acting in the best interests
of users. I think this gives me a different view of the ecosystem than
you have, in which the incentives aren't aligned as nicely in favor of
the user. I'm happy to discuss this further, but will refrain from doing
so now since it's a bit off topic.

> 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.
I fully agree that actual user preference ought to be paramount, and the
rate of adoption of DNT irrelevant, even though I disagree that
advertisers often have an incentive to adhere to user preference.

> ....Roy

Dan Auerbach
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
415 436 9333 x134

Received on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 21:50:50 UTC