Online Industry Giants Fearful of Do-Not-Track/Will Online Users Have Some form of Protection Against Tracking?
Last week, I spent several days working with privacy and consumer NGOs, along with Mozilla and privacy tech maven Jonathan Mayer advancing the interests of consumer/citizen privacy in the digital era. The forum was the Worldwide Web Consortium's Tracking Protection Working Group in-person meeting in Washington, DC. As my colleagues at EFF and Consumer Watchdog have written, it appears that companies such as Google, Yahoo, AT&T and others don't support a serious Do-Not-Track system. Under their lobbying group called Digital Advertising Alliance, these tech giants and their allies are pushing for a plan that would enable them to collect and harvest rich data profiles of users--even if those individuals expressed a preference not to be tracked. The two leading proposals are one backed by Yahoo, Google and others, and one jointly developed by EFF/Mozilla and Mr. Mayer. My CDD supports the latter proposal. There are other proposals, but these are the two principal ones (see the attachment for all the proposals submitted last week).
Already, the W3C process is very flawed. First party tracking is more or less off the negotiating table, primarily because the Federal Trade Commission has failed to make an effective case supporting why Do-Not-Track should address sites such as Google and Yahoo (Microsoft has a kind of schizoid role here. The company wants to support stronger privacy for users, but also doesn't want to do much that would lessen the data that is collected for its ad sales). Google itself expressed confusion on why privacy is a problem at all (which says a lot about how they have fumbled so badly in the last few years on that issue). The industry wants a range of exceptions that would further eviscerate Do-Not-Track. Mozilla/EFF/Mayer have offered a way that companies can continue ad delivery but do so in a privacy friendly way--with no cookies permitted that ID's a user.
A likely scenario is that Google and the others will embrace a faux Do-Not-Track that gives the appearance of a safeguard, but is really a shell. If the consumer and privacy groups have to withdraw from the W3C because industry leaders aren't willing to adopt reasonable measures to empower consumers, it will say a lot about the motives of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other major data targeters. Time is running out.