Privacy advocates, online ad groups still doubt Do Not Track talks

Key participants in the talks to create a Do Not Track tool still think the group should disband, even though its leaders have decided to keep going.

Privacy advocates and representatives from the online advertising industry — who usually disagree on matters of online privacy — echoed their calls to end the stalled and contentious discussions on how to allow users to opt out of online tracking. 

On Wednesday, the co-chairmen of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Do Not Track working group announced that talks would continue, disregarding the members of the group who voted earlier this month to end the process.

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Online ad groups remain doubtful the divided group will be able to produce a Do Not Track tool. The Digital Advertising Alliance, which represents online advertisers, left the group last month and said it would focus on its own self-regulatory program.

Marc Groman, president of the Network Advertising Initiative, said his group “remains concerned about the lack of process and transparency in the Working Group as well as a recent series of arbitrary decisions.”

Still, “we will continue to engage to ensure that there is a voice for third parties and digital advertising, small and medium-sized business, the long tail of the Internet, and frankly the consumer,” Groman said. 

“Otherwise, a global standard will be set by [five to eight] companies.”

During a group poll earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy and consumer advocate, said it would consider leaving the group if the co-chairs decided to press on. The group “has lost confidence that the process will produce a standard that we would support,” it said.

Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the group hasn’t left at this point but is “still thinking about it.”

One of the group’s co-chairs, Justin Brookman from the Center for Democracy and Technology, says he’s tried to persuade consumer groups like Tien’s to stay engaged. “Hopefully the streamlined structure will allow them to continue to contribute,” he said.