As part of its broader effort to develop a “Do Not Track” (DNT) web browser privacy standard, the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”), an international organization that develops Internet standards, recently released a draft of one technical component of the standard to gather implementation experience from the developer community.
Continue Reading Web Standards Group Releases Candidate Recommendation As Part of Broader “Do Not Track” Review

The World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) Tracking Protection Working Group (“TPWG”) on Wednesday announced the addition of two new chairs to spearhead its efforts to craft an online tracking mechanism. The new chairs, Center for Democracy and Technology Director Justin Brookman, and Adobe Systems, Inc. Carl Cargill will be joining Intel Corp.’s Matthias Schunter in

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

By Emily Borgen

Legislation was reintroduced in the Senate last week that would allow Internet users to opt out of certain forms of online tracking.  The bill [PDF] was previously introduced in 2011.

The “Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013,” introduced on February 27 by Senators Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would require the Federal Trade

Updated on October 1, 2012 to add information about Chairman Leibowitz’s response to the nine Representatives’ letter. 

As we previously noted, in March of this year the Federal Trade Commission called for the implementation of a Do Not Track (DNT) system that allows consumers to opt out of the collection of all online behavioral data other than data needed for certain limited purposes, such as preventing fraud.  Much of the debate over DNT has been taking place within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which has been convening talks to develop a standard for what it means to honor a consumer’s DNT preference. 

According to media reports, advocacy groups are now asking the FTC to become more actively involved in the W3C discussions.  In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, “The W3C talks have reached a point where a clear statement from the FTC will play a decisive role in reaching consensus.”  The organizations want the FTC to support a proposal that would permit the collection of analytics information only if the data cannot be linked to specific users or devices, as well as a proposal that websites should honor DNT irrespective of whether the DNT setting is turned on by default — an issue we blogged about here

Meanwhile, nine House members have reportedly written to the FTC to raise concerns about the agency’s role in the W3C process.  The lawmakers questioned whether the FTC and W3C have adequately considered DNT’s potential effect on third-party advertising networks and publishers.  The members also requested information about the agency’s authority to participate in the W3C discussions, studies the agency considered before advocating for DNT, and other information.  Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) today sent a separate letter to Chairman Leibowitz, asking for similar information and criticizing the FTC for “acting outside the scope of Congressional intent” by seeking to create government policy in an area reserved for Congress.

Edit:  Chairman Leibowitz responded to the Representatives’ letter by emphasizing that the FTC’s role in W3C “in no way usurps the legislative process or imposes a burden on industry” because any DNT standard adopted by the W3C would be self-regulatory and voluntary.  The nine House members’ letter is available here, and Chairman Leibowitz’s response is available here.

Continue Reading FTC’s Role in “Do Not Track” Discussions Under Debate

The group that develops technical standards and guidelines for the World Wide Web released a set of draft standards on Monday that are intended to allow consumers to limit and control how they are tracked online.

The standards, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (known as the “W3C”), would allow consumers to set a “Do-Not-Track” preference using their browser or other tools.  The proposal effectively sets up an “opt-out” mechanism for online tracking because no preference is transmitted until the user affirmatively selects a setting.  The standard states that, absent laws, rules or other requirements to the contrary, servers may interpret the lack of an expressed preference “as they find most appropriate for the given user, particularly when considered in light of the user’s privacy expectations and cultural circumstances.”  Once set by the user, the Do-Not-Track preference would be transmitted to any website the user visits; the standard requires website servers that have implemented the standard to send a response signal indicating whether the website respects the tracking preference.  Users would be able to affirmatively allow tracking, block all tracking, or refuse tracking generally but allow tracking on certain sites.

Continue Reading Web-standards group releases draft “Do-Not-Track” mechanism