European Commissioner concerned about "Do Not Track" standard
Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, has criticised the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for the delays and the way it has been handling the standardisation of the Do Not Track (DNT) header: "Standardisation work is not going according to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned." She warned of the danger that the standard could be watered down too much and advised that there is a need to act quickly and find a "good consensus" on the DNT standard.
The European Commissioner has high hopes for the standard because it could provide a way of handling Europe's strict cookie regulations. These regulations stipulate that users must agree to the placement of these browser files on their system. In principle, Do Not Track could signal to advertisers whether users consent to their private information being used, explained Kroes; however, she added that this requires that users are informed about the importance of their DNT choice when installing a web browser, or that the technique is enabled by default. Furthermore, she said that "the DNT standard should not let websites 'second-guess' or disregard user choices" and options to retrieve user data without the user's consent should be minimised.
Kroes pointed out that, in her opinion, online privacy and online business depend on each other. "We need to understand online privacy more as a market in its own right. A market grounded in a respected legal framework. A market that benefits from transparency," adding that it is in everyone's interest to successfully implement a meaningful DNT standard. According to the Commissioner, online companies must also ask themselves whether it makes sense for everyone to "become expert in 'big data', finding out what people like, want, think, from their digital traces".
Earlier, a document submitted to the W3C by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) caused surprise; it proposed that marketing should be added to the list of "Permitted Uses" of DNT "for Third Parties and Service Providers." The proposal sparked hectic discussions on a W3C mailing list – contributors asked about the planned definition of permissible marketing activities or simply expressed their incomprehension. A representative of the US-based association responded by saying that "marketing fuels the world" and that "it is as American as apple pie and delivers relevant advertising to consumers about products they will be interested at a time they are interested". Therefore, she added, DNT should support behavioural advertising as "one of the most important values of civil society". According to the representative, those who do not wish to receive such advertising "can use the persistent Digital Advertising Alliance choice mechanism."
(Stefan Krempl / crve)