Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the standards group which oversees HTML development and other web standards, such as Do Not Track, or DNT. This standard aims to keep an Internet user´s activity and behavior hidden from advertisers.
Yesterday, the W3C announced a new co-chair for the group in Peter Swire, who will begin working as the co-chairman of the W3C´s Tracking Protection Working Group.
Companies have to advertise on the web just as they have to advertise on billboards, radio and television. These advertisers also take care to understand who will be affected by the placement of these ads. After all, a billboard for a liquor store in Texas might not be so effective in the mountains of Utah.
In the same way, companies want to make sure their online advertising dollars are being spent well and reaching the correct demographics. In order to do that, they rely on tracking services which follow and monitor the online activities and behavior of Internet users.
As privacy concerns become more prevalent in our society, many consumer advocacy groups have become skeptical about these tracking services and which to not be watched by advertisers while online. Thus, the Do Not Track (or DNT) standard. DNT is now featured in all major browsers and can be turned on by the user in the browser´s settings.
Microsoft recently brought this standard to the forefront when they announced the latest version of their browser, Internet Explorer 10, would ship with DNT turned on by default. This move angered many advertisers who depend on this kind of information to create the most effective and targeted ads.
While many consumers may feel that DNT is a great option, the full implementation and standards of which are still being hammered out and debated.
Peter Swire, a law professor from Ohio State University and a former White House privacy official will now enter this debate and work to solidify a standard both advertisers and consumer advocacy groups can be happy with.
It´s a difficult debate to settle. In the same way television programs depend on advertising dollars to continue making new content, Web sites and services depend on advertising to keep them online. These advertisers want to make sure they´re getting their money´s worth in efficient and targeted ads.
Consumer advocacy groups, on the other hand, are concerned that the tools used to gather this information may be too obtrusive. Furthermore, these groups believe consumers should have a choice as to whether they want to share this information with others.
Mr. Swire has said he hopes to find a middle ground between these two sides and find an appropriate balance. He likened DNT to the national Do Not Call list which is meant to keep telemarketers from making unsolicited and unwanted calls.
“People can choose not to have telemarketers call them during dinner. The simple idea is that users should have a choice over how their Internet browsing works as well,” said Mr. Swire in an interview with the New York Times.
“The overarching theme is how to give users choice about their Internet experience while also funding a useful Internet.”
However, just as the Do Not Call registry hasn´t stopped all annoying phone calls, advertisers still have the choice to obey a DNT request. As a part of this debate, it´s not yet been decided if these companies have to abide by a consumer´s request to not be tracked. Adobe, Google and Yahoo, for instance, all supported the notion of ignoring a DNT request in June. Apple and Mozilla, on the other hand, voted that all requests should be respected.