Re: ACTION-390: alternative UA affordances for DNT choice

Thanks Peter  additional thoughts below.

From:  Peter Swire <>
Date:  Wednesday, April 17, 2013 9:50 AM
To:  "Edward W. Felten" <felten@CS.Princeton.EDU>,
"<>" <>
Subject:  Re: ACTION-390: alternative UA affordances for DNT choice
Resent-From:  <>
Resent-Date:  Wed, 17 Apr 2013 13:51:15 +0000

> My thanks to Ed for writing this up so clearly.
> As a follow-up, let's see if the following is accurate.  My point goes to
> advantages and disadvantages of having a broader vs. narrower set of user
> agents that are covered by the standard, with respect to user interface/user
> education.
> Broader scope of UAs that comply with DNT.   This includes Ed's sort of
> examples.  There are smart objects such as bathroom scales or the podcast
> service.  Users may want to have DNT for these objects, so that their daily
> weight or music downloads are not tracked.

DNT is not the only way to stop a smart bathroom scale or podcast service
from broadcasting your weight or music consumption. Each of these services
should (and probably do) provide the ability for Users to stop them from
broadcasting completely separate from DNT. Moreover, assuming the podcast
service is not a FIRST PARTY and not subject to much of the DNT rule set,
there's nothing preventing the podcast service from otherwise honoring DNT.

>  In Ed's examples, the DNT interface and choices would be expressed at a web
> site that is separate from the UA.  Presumably, full DNT functionality would
> exist on that web site, with respect to the UA.
> Narrower scope of UAs that comply with DNT.  A narrower approach would say
> that the bathroom scales or podcast service do not qualify for DNT, because
> there is no user interface directly by the UA.  The idea here might be that it
> is necessary for DNT to apply for the UA itself to have the user interface
> built in.
> I believe that Ed is supporting the broader scope, so that user choice is
> achieved for this broader range of UAs.
> Are there objections/concerns to this approach, so that some in the group
> would only support the narrower scope?  What would the basis be for such
> concerns?

This approach is not in line with generally accepted privacy concepts and
opens the door to a wild west environment where consumers are turning on DNT
without understand what that really means.

> Thank you,
> Peter
> Professor Peter P. Swire
> C. William O'Neill Professor of Law
>     Ohio State University
> 240.994.4142
> From:  Ed Felten <felten@CS.Princeton.EDU>
> Date:  Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:51 AM
> To:  "<>" <>
> Subject:  ACTION-390: alternative UA affordances for DNT choice
> Resent-From:  <>
> Resent-Date:  Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:52 AM
> Peter asked me to assemble some examples of User Agents offering different
> types of affordances for DNT choice.
> [First, for those with less experience in web standards, let's review the
> definition of "User Agent".   The TPE spec includes a standard definition:
> "This specification uses the term user agent to refer to any of the various
> client programs capable of initiating HTTP requests, including, but not
> limited to, browsers, spiders (web-based robots), command-line tools, native
> applications, and mobile apps [HTTP11
> <
> 1> ]."    HTTP requests are used for many purposes beyond loading HTML pages
> for display in browsers.  Although we might be tempted to think of "User
> Agent" as synonymous with "browser," there are many UAs that are not
> browsers.]
> User Agent functionality is built into many types of consumer electronics or
> "smart object" products, including alarm clocks, pedometers, audio players,
> car electronics, bathroom scales, and even dog collars.   (The collar reports
> your dog's location over time.)   These are not hypotheticals; they are all
> real products on the market.   Many products of this type do no offer a rich
> user interface on the device itself.  Instead, they offer control and
> interaction via a web site provided separately from the product itself, which
> the consumer accesses using their ordinary desktop browser.
> For example, a music player device might offer the ability to subscribe to
> podcasts, with the device automatically downloading new podcast episodes from
> subscribed-to podcasts as they become available.   When downloading a new
> podcast episode, the player device would be acting as a user agent (initiating
> an HTTP request).  Yet the player device might not offer a user interface with
> rich controls.  Instead, the user might set up and control their podcast
> subscriptions via an external website affiliated with the device.
> In this case, it is possible to offer the user DNT choice via the external
> website.  But note that this choice would not be offered through the user
> agent (the music player device) itself---and the external website is not a
> user agent at all.  Therefore a spec that required choice to be offered
> *directly by* the user agent would not be implementable in this scenario,
> while one that merely required clear choice *with respect to* the user agent
> would be implementable for this type of user agent.
> Another type of UA that can't offer a direct DNT affordance to the user is a
> service that acts asynchronously on the user's behalf.   One example is Ifttt.
> You tell Ifttt a "recipe" such as "rebroadcast all of my Twitter tweets as
> Facebook wall posts" or "clip any Facebook photo tagged with my name and
> upload it into Evernote", etc.   Then Ifttt periodically accesses the various
> sites on your behalf to carry out the recipes.  When Ifttt accesses these
> sites, it is acting as a User Agent, but you are not present and this UA
> doesn't offer you a direct user interface.   You can control the status of
> your Ifttt account via an external control panel, which is not a User Agent.
> Again, notification and choice are possible *for* the Ifttt User Agent, but
> not *through* the User Agent itself.
> This should give an idea of some of the scenarios that can come up.   There
> are others that pose different challenges, such as command-line tools, or
> tools that user HTTP "in the background" to update code or data in an app, or
> code that isn't allowed to offer a rich user interface for security reasons.
> (A rich UI can be used, e.g., to trick the user into entering a sensitive
> password, so some systems block less-trusted code from displaying a rich or
> large UI.)

Received on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 14:17:01 UTC