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

Please see below.

From:  "Edward W. Felten" <felten@CS.Princeton.EDU>
Date:  Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:39 AM
To:  Alan Chapell <achapell@chapellassociates.com>
Cc:  "<public-tracking@w3.org>" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Subject:  Re: ACTION-390: alternative UA affordances for DNT choice

> On Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 10:01 AM, Alan Chapell
> <achapell@chapellassociates.com> wrote:
>> [...]
>> 
>> That said, I'm not sure we're asking the right question here. Its not "are
>> there UA's that couldn't meet the guidelines?" -- The better question is:
>> "are consumers better served by a standard that takes steps to ensure that
>> Users are making an informed choice?"
> 
> This is the key question, I think.   Are we trying to enact particular
> guidelines?  Or are we trying to make sure that users are making an informed
> choice?   I think the latter is a better goal.

The purpose of the proposed guidelines is to help ensure that the User is in
position to make an informed choice.

How does allowing UA's to enact DNT without offering information on what DNT
does is help users to make informed choices?

>  
>> If we move forward with the proposed UA guidelines, that means certain UA's
>> (e.g., dog collars, Ifttt, certain music players) won't be able to enact DNT
>> in a compliant way  at least not initially. I don't see that as a bad thing
>> given that consumers will certainly have other mechanisms where they can
>> enact a valid DNT. Can you or someone else help me understand why this
>> creates a poor outcome?
> 
> Suppose the user doesn't want podcast providers to track their downloads.   If
> we prohibit the music player from sending DNT: 1 --- even if the user has
> gotten full notification and made an informed choice --- then we are
> frustrating the user and forcing the music player maker to offer a less
> attractive product.

Ed, are you suggesting  that DNT is (or should be) the only way to stop the
podcast provider from tracking downloads? I use Spotify, and that service
offers ways to prevent others from seeing what I listen to on Spotify. DNT
is one of many tools --- it is not supposed to be the ONLY tool.

> 
> The difference here is between (a) requiring that the user's choice is
> informed and voluntary, versus (b) requiring that the user interface for that
> choice be provided directly by the UA software.    I see the rationale for
> (a).  I don't understand the rationale for (b).

The rationale for B is this --- if you don't require those enacting DNT to
disclose DNT functionality clearly and accurately, you frustrate the entire
purpose of A.


>> 
>  
>> From:  "Edward W. Felten" <felten@CS.Princeton.EDU>
>> 
>> Date:  Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:51 AM
>> To:  "<public-tracking@w3.org>" <public-tracking@w3.org>
>> Subject:  ACTION-390: alternative UA affordances for DNT choice
>> Resent-From:  <public-tracking@w3.org>
>> Resent-Date:  Wed, 17 Apr 2013 12:52:30 +0000
>> 
>>> 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
>>> <http://www.w3.org/2011/tracking-protection/drafts/tracking-dnt.html#bib-HTT
>>> P11> ]."    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.)
>>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> Edward W. Felten
> Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs
> Director, Center for Information Technology Policy
> Princeton University
> 609-258-5906           http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~felten

Received on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 14:54:20 UTC