Do Not Track talks will continue over objections

Tech companies, online advertisers and privacy advocates will continue their attempts to outline a Do Not Track tool, co-chairs of the World Wide Web Consortium's Do Not Track working group said Tuesday.

The group — which is trying to create a tool that would allow users to opt-out of online tracking — has faced criticism over the last few months for missing multiple deadlines and failing to agree on key aspects of the debate, such as a definition for “tracking” online. 

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Earlier this month, stakeholders were polled on whether and how they should continue. Privacy advocates and online advertising groups, that usually find themselves on opposite sides of online advertising issues, voted to disband the group. 

But the group will not disband, the co-chairs — Intel’s Matthias Schunter, Adobe’s Carl Cargill and Justin Brookman from the Center for Democracy and Technology — said in a public email to the group.

Instead of disbanding, the co-chairs said, the group will put off dealing with some contentious parts of the debate while focusing on other aspects, including technical specifications. 

As part of its discussions about technical specifications, the group should come to an agreement on some of the more controversial questions, such as defining what constitutes online tracking, co-chairs told the group’s members.

The co-chairs said they expect the group can wrap up discussions about technical aspects by February.

In public emails to the group, stakeholders voiced concerns that the more contentious issues will ultimately force the group to defeat, regardless of when they’re considered.

“Given our history as a working group, I'm afraid this strategy … will lead us right back to where we ended up before the poll — at a stalemate,” Chris Mejia of the online advertising group Interactive Advertising Bureau said in a public email.

John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, said he doesn’t think the group will be able to agree on a meaningful Do Not Track tool. “Ultimately I think legislation is the only way to provide consumers' the protection they are entitled to,” he said.