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Re: "forced choice" user agent implementation of DNT

From: Dan Auerbach <dan@eff.org>
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2012 15:23:43 -0700
Message-ID: <507DDE6F.8030508@eff.org>
To: public-tracking@w3.org
On 10/16/2012 12:54 AM, Ian Fette (イアンフェッティ) wrote:
> I also question whether a single sentence would adequately convey to
> the user the tradeoffs involved in the choice they are making.
> Further, if you are forcing a choice / getting in the user's way when
> they are just trying to get something else done (e.g. see what the
> heck this program is that they just installed, or in the case of an
> upgrade, "I just want to get to my email." I think forced timing like
> this would probably degrade the extent to which whatever signal you
> collect actually reflects user preference as opposed to just "make the
> dialogs go away!"

I'm sure we're all in agreement that having the user read several books
on online advertising will lead to the most accurate choices. In absence
of this, it seems to me that a forced-choice dialog provides quite a
reasonable balance. It certainly seems more fair to me than having a

As far as degrading the user choice, I'd be very interested in learning
more if there were literature on the subject. My intuition is that it's
probably pretty accurate, but we could measure it. Here's an experiment:
run forced-choice on a neutral issue (e.g. "do you prefer red or blue
background"), and measure how people choose. Then one could go back and
ask them questions about their preference over coffee, and match the
chosen-on-the-spot distribution against the more accurate survey data.

But perhaps your point is less about degrading user experience, and more
that users must have some sort of minimum requirement of understanding
before they can even be trusted to make a choice? I'm certainly not
opposed to giving the user more information, so long as it is balanced
between turning DNT on and off. Do you agree? So, for example, if you
insist on a dialog in which a user takes a quiz before turning DNT on,
then a similar quiz should exist in any context in which the user can
turn DNT off (of course including adding exceptions). What I think is
unfair is making the user jump through hoops to go in one direction, but
allowing her to go in the other direction without any effort at all.

> On Oct 16, 2012 3:01 AM, "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@gbiv.com
> <mailto:fielding@gbiv.com>> 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.
>     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.
>     ....Roy

Dan Auerbach
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
415 436 9333 x134
Received on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 22:24:09 UTC

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