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Ad tracking: Is anything being done?

Robert L. Mitchell | April 3, 2014
With online tracking on the rise and Do Not Track efforts moving ahead slowly, users and browser vendors have been taking matters into their own hands.

If at first you don't succeed...
A Do Not Track policy with all parties as signatories would be a good first step toward addressing these issues across all platforms, and Brookman remains optimistic that a negotiated agreement still can be hammered out. To force movement, the working group has actively pursued a process that allows the co-chairs to "declare definitive positions on contentious issues based on which [positions] have the least strong objections," he says.

But this change has left industry groups that are on the losing end of some decisions feeling disenfranchised. "It is an outrage," Zaneis says of the current process.

Brookman thinks that those browser vendors who implemented the Do Not Track feature in their products and are deeply committed to the idea are positioned to push the group to consensus. "If their DNT signals are being rejected and ignored, they have a lot of options at their disposal to disadvantage non-compliant third parties. That alone may be sufficient incentive for the trade associations to adopt a meaningful DNT standard," he says.

Zaneis says advertisers won't be coerced into an agreement. "The $40 billion U.S. ad industry will not be strong-armed by advocates into agreeing to a standard that does nothing to further privacy or allow the Internet to prosper," he says. "We remain committed to finding a balanced approach that supports privacy and economic growth."

Fowler remains confident. "Since the end of last year we're seeing pretty good progress. We're hopeful that we'll see industry groups in this year moving forward with broader support for DNT," he says.

But while the working group may finally have regained its footing over the last few months, a final resolution still could be a long ways off. In the meantime, users will have to decide whether to live with the status quo, pursue the various opt-out mechanisms available to them, or simply block everything using an anti-tracking program.


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