The Do-Not-Track debacle
08 May 2014

The Do-Not-Track debacle

We're big fans of web privacy at Webfuel. We've posted about Do Not Track (DNT) in the past. DNT is a mechanism by which web users can change a setting in their browsers which tells every website that they visit that they do not want to be tracked.  This means they do not want their browsing behaviour to be monitored, and they most certainly do not want to have adverts targeted at them based on this browsing behaviour.

It's not a perfect solution because it relies upon the websites themselves honouring the request, but it is a step in the right direction. However two recent developments have thrown a big spanner in the works of the entire DNT movement.

Firstly on-going discussions between privacy campaigners and advertising industry groups are reportedly on the verge of breakdown over a failure to agree what DNT means in practice. Privacy campaigners are insisting that DNT means that advertisers should not collect any online tracking data from web visitors, however advertisers are pushing for DNT to mean that while they can still record visitor browsing data they cannot then use this data to display targeted advertising. This fundamental dispute threatens to undermine the consenses for the use of DNT in the first place.

The second development is Microsoft's announcement that DNT would be turned on by default in the new IE10 browser. While Chrome and Firefox have had DNT features for some time now both browsers require the user to actively find the setting and turn it on, rather than send the DNT signal to websites by default.

This bold move catapulted Microsoft into the unlikely position of being a champion of the online privacy movement, however it caused anger amounst the advertising industry. In a recent press release the Digital Advertising Alliance announced that they are advising their members to ignore any "Do Not Track" signals sent to their websites by IE10 or any other browser which enables DNT by default.

“The DAA does not require companies to honor DNT signals fixed by the browser manufacturers and set by them in browsers. Specifically, it is not a DAA Principle or in any way a requirement under the DAA Program to honor a DNT signal that is automatically set in IE10 or any other browser. The Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Direct Marketing Association will not sanction or penalize companies or otherwise enforce with respect to DNT signals set on IE10 or other browsers.”

The DNT debate is becoming a giant mess. There are multiple ways to implement solutions and neither side is going to be fully happy with whatever comes out at the end. For now however we're just going to have to live with those targeted ads until the two sides can reach some kind of compromise.

© 2016 Webfuel Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Get A