The Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) on Tuesday announced that it will withdraw from the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) tracking protection working group (“TPWG”), saying that the TPWG has “reached the end of its useful life.”
In a letter to the TPWG (full text available here), DAA Managing Director Lou Mastria explained that: “After more than two years of good-faith effort and having contributed significant resources, the DAA no longer believes that the [Tracking Protection Working Group] is capable of fostering the development of a workable ‘do not track’ solution.”
The DAA is the first member to act on the sentiment—expressed by privacy advocates and the advertising community alike—that the working group simply is not working. This opinion is also shared by the group’s former co-chair, Peter Swire, who on Tuesday wrote to Politico that his personal view was the working group “does not have a path to consensus….”
The 110-member TPWG, whose first face-to-face meeting took place in September 2011, was tasked with improving user privacy and control by recommending both specific mechanisms for users to express their Do Not Track preferences, and associated technologies for implementing those preferences. The TPWG’s deadline is set at April 30, 2014, when the Group is scheduled to dissolve.
Now, a full two years after its first meeting, the TPWG has failed not only to make significant progress in its mission, but to make any meaningful progress whatsoever. As of September 17, 2013, the TPWG had yet to define what “tracking” means and had not yet specified the problem the group is aiming to solve.
Some—including Mr. Swire—attribute the TPWG’s lack of progress to the disparate interests of the TPWG members. The events which took place earlier this year serve as a prime example of the contentious relationship between those in the TPWG seeking stricter privacy rules and the members of the advertising community. In March 2013, the W3C extended the TPWG Charter, despite calls for the group to stop its work given its lack of progress. Although initially the grumblings only grew, the chorus of discontent seemed to quell in June with the presentation of a draft proposal for a universal Do Not Track standard. In response, the DAA drafted a counterproposal, which was summarily rejected by Swire and his co-chair Matthias Schunter. And so, the July deadline to adopt a draft proposal came and passed unceremoniously, without any action whatsoever.
The DAA’s frustration with the TPWG’s lack of progress has led it to seek alternative forums wherein Do Not Track proposals may be a reality, rather than an unreachable aspiration. The DAA has stated that it will “immediately convene a process to evaluate how browser-based signals can be used to meaningfully address consumer privacy.” The DAA’s initial meeting is set for October 10th, in San Francisco.