More on Browsers’ “Do Not Track” Command

Online advertisers intend to ignore ‘do not track’ settings set by default. Here’s a story on about that practice: Advertising industry standards do not “require companies to honor DNT signals fixed by the browser manufacturers and set by them in browsers”. So much for the ‘better business’ in Better Business Bureau. ‘Better For Business…’ appears more accurate.

A very pungent description of the ‘Privacy? Never heard of it!’ world of advertising and the discussions about these standards can be found on ZDNet. (h/t David Cheifetz)

And even browsers set to ‘do not track’ will not comply with the EU’s recent rules on getting consent before placing cookies — which are what allow the tracking in the first place. Perhaps just as well, if advertisers are going to ignore those settings.

Will PIPEDA or its substantially similar provincial counterparts change advertisers’ behaviour in Canada?


  1. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some guidance from formal regulation? As it stands now, DNT is just a pawn in various games. Microsoft rushing the setting through, as a default, not waiting for W3C standards to be finalized… because their business isn’t as dependent on advertising (and they hate Google). Or on the other side, the ad industry trying to guarantee the right to track user behavior “within DNT”, and the absurdity that entails.

    I wonder if Facebook will be able to bypass the setting entirely, forcing users to accept tracking before using their service? Certainly the open web and publishers who provide free content would be set for a hit. This standard could go in either extreme, really, with web advertising becoming as blind a marketing medium as television currently is.

    I’d really like to see some balance in the DNT implementation, via debate, and then a ‘happy medium’ set of standards. Self-regulation is failing miserably, so is it now government’s turn?

  2. Steven, I wouldn’t characterize the W3C process as a self-regulatory mechanism. The process is informed by legal norms set out by regulators, and some regulators are directly participating in the W3C working group that is developing the standard (the FTC and the Article 29 working group both have representatives).

    With respect to Facebook, the W3C standard does not apply to first party relationships in general, and also allow individuals to gain consent to track outside the parameters of the specification. While the specification is not finalized yet, the current draft puts some restrictions on what would qualify for ‘out of band’ consent. That is, it anyone seeking to gain consent directly from the individual they wish to track to employ an explicit consent mechanism.

  3. Thanks Tamir. I hadn’t intended to the characterize the W3C process of setting standards as self-regulation. Was more a critique of the advertising industry policing its own behavior.