Future of W3C Do-Not-Track in doubt

W3C’s (World Wide Web Consortium) working group on a US self-regulatory Do-Not-Track standard may stop its work as it has not been able to make much progress. At a vote, organised between 18 September and 9 October, a small majority of the 43 respondents said they would like to continue work in some form, but nearly half said they had no confidence in the process. Another 66 participants failed to vote.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has now declared that it will leave the group and intends to convene a new group to work on the browser-based solution. W3C Working Group Co-chair, Justin Brookman, said: “If the group makes the decision to disband, we are likely to see an escalation in tactics by regulators, browser and operating systems vendors, consumer groups, and online third parties to either limit or harden online tracking capabilities. Do-Not-Track seems like a considerably more desirable outcome for all involved than blanket third-party resource blocking, invisible browser fingerprinting techniques that users cannot detect or control, or hastily enacted and possibly contradictory legislation in multiple jurisdictions. While the DAA has recently announced its own intent to work on Do-Not-Track like technologies, that effort has not even begun, while the W3C has already invested years of work into generating a transparent and open standard.”

DAA’s Managing Director Lou Mastria said: "By Wednesday afternoon, votes were running half and half to discontinue the tracking protection working group, which has very little to show after two years of meetings.”

In the summer, DAA’s Do-Not-Track proposal was rejected by the W3C that is seeking to design a solution that would let users block online “tracking” at browser level. According to DAA, the W3C proposal, put forward in June, was too stringent. While some web browsers already operate a Do-Not-Track feature, this does not have much relevance before websites specifically change their practices. DAA has previously said that setting Do-Not Track as a default option, to automatically make choices for consumers, does not increase transparency.

See http://www.w3.org/2011/tracking-protection/
Details of the public vote are at https://www.w3.org/2002/09/wbs/49311/tpwg-poll/results