DAA to Convene New Do Not Track Group [Updated]

Vote will decide if embattled W3C working group should continue working

As the World Wide Web Consortium's Do Not Track group continues to spin out of control, the Digital Advertising Alliance—which is exiting the multi-stakeholder group—convened a new group to work on a browser-based Do Not Track solution. 

DAA managing director Lou Mastria announced the alternative group, called the DNT subcommittee, in his comments accompanying a W3C vote on whether the W3C's two-year-old Tracking Protecting Working Group should "stop work." 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.

The DNT subcommittee held its first meeting Thursday and hopes to come up with solution by the beginning of next year. 

"Rather than continue to work in a forum that has failed, we intend to commit our resources and time in participating in efforts that can achieve results while enhancing the consumer digital experience," Mastria wrote. "The DAA will immediately convene a process to evaluate how browser-based signals can be used to meaningfully address consumer privacy." 

Even after a month-long hiatus this summer, the W3C TPWG, often called the Do Not Track group, never seemed to pull it together, finding itself embroiled in controversy over process and leadership. Many of the comments posted with the five-choice vote indicated that not much has changed, despite the addition of two new co-chairs creating a co-chair troika. 

"This proceeding is so flawed, it's a farce," wrote Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy and a leading privacy advocate.

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, also wrote that he felt it was time for a different approach than the W3C TPWG. "I believe that the Internet ecosystem would be better served by continuing work on Do Not Track in a forum other than the W3C," he said.

Few believed that the group could reach consensus or that they could even walk away from the process. "As has been communicated to me by many other TPWG members both publicly and privately, this group is unlikely to reach consensus, and there is significant risk that the W3C will attempt to force a consensus upon this group," wrote Alan Chapell, president of Chapell & Associates and chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association's privacy committee.

"We are now two years into this process and haven't defined tracking! Countless hours have been spent, and we can't even agree on the thing we've set out to do?! I find that shameful," wrote Brooks Dobbs, chief privacy officer for WPP's KBM Group.

Do Not Track has been at the center of the consumer privacy debate in Washington. The Federal Trade Commission and other policymakers, unable to get any legislation passed in Congress, have been relying on the W3C process to come up with voluntary guidelines that industry would agree to giving consumers a browser-based Do Not Track option. But so far, the W3C's 100 members haven't agreed on much of anything and Wednesday's vote leaves little hope that will change any time soon. 

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