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Targeted advertising to be subject to 'do not track' standard

An advertising industry body's proposal to remove targeted advertising from the scope of a new 'do not track' (DNT) privacy standard has been rejected.

The Tracking Protection Working Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is working on developing a new DNT controls system for operation within web browser settings, said that its members had rejected plans put forward by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) to exempt targeted advertising from being subject to the new standard.

The DAA had proposed that internet users would be able to control the targeted advertising they received through its own, separate, "opt-out mechanism", according to a decision notice issued by co-chairs of the Tracking Protection Working Group, Matthias Schunter and Peter Swire. However, that plan was rejected in favour of an alternative drafted last month, they said.

Schunter and Swire said work on the detail of how the new DNT standard would work in practice would continue now that a decision on what the "base text for the do not track compliance specification" had been agreed.

"We conclude, based on the comments submitted, that the June Draft provides a better basis from which to address the criteria for a W3C standard, as understood in the Working Group, than does than the DAA Proposal," they said. "We thus will continue to use the June Draft as the base text and work through the remaining issues raised. We will not revisit the choices presented in the DAA change proposal and rejected in this decision."

Schunter and Swire highlighted some problems that had been raised with the DAA's proposals.

"Based on discussions in the Group, and comments submitted, it is difficult to explain to users how the DAA Proposal reduces tracking for users who select DNT," they said. "Retargeting and profiling would continue unchanged. Collection would be unchanged, and the principal changes would be to how data is handled internally by companies after it is collected."

"Advertising industry comments stress how adopting the DAA Proposal as base text would meet the other criterion set forth in Boston: adoption. In Boston, however, Swire specifically noted that adoption of a standard with no or little change from the status quo would not be sufficient. Other commentators have emphasised that there would be widespread confusion if consumers select a Do Not Track option, only to have targeting and collection continue unchanged," they added.

Microsoft is one company that has developed its own DNT tool for users of its Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) browser. The company's decision to turn on DNT settings automatically – meaning users would have to opt in to enable targeted adverts – was met with widespread criticism from the advertising industry.

The DAA announced last year that members of the organisations that comprise it would not be considered to be violating self-regulatory rules that govern their online behavioural advertising  ractices if they simply ignore the DNT settings in IE10. The DAA is made up of a number of ad industry groups, including the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Yahoo! then subsequently announced that it would not "recognise" the DNT settings in IE10 either.

The European Commission has previously admitted that adherence to the DNT standards being developed by the W3C would not, on their own, allow website operators to comply with EU rules on 'cookies'

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