It would otherwise be commendable that Mr. Kint is taking a stand on privacy, except for the fact that Do Not Track doesn’t stop OPA members from tracking. There’s not a single thing that members won’t be able to do when they see a DNT signal. And that’s by design, as a result of a clandestine agreement between large first parties within the World Wide Web Consortium -- the standards body that is attempting to create the Do Not Track standard. So a typical OPA member, one that owns dozens of different and sometimes unrelated websites, will be able to track across those websites as a result of the OPA’s lobbying efforts. I’m sure that’s good for their businesses, but from my perspective, it’s not great for privacy. Moreover, it is a bit disingenuous for the OPA to be lobbying for a standard that they’ve taken great pains to ensure doesn’t apply to its membership.
In fact, the Online Publisher’s Association’s sole role in the Do Not Track discussions has been to exempt themselves from the standard. Check the record. The OPA has provided very little to the W3C except to ensure that its members don’t get affected by Do Not Track. This is sort of like when Congress exempted itself from the rules of the Do Not Call list. For most of us who aren’t from D.C., such behavior smacks of chutzpah. Except in this case, it's not Congress, but large companies with competing business interests having deputized themselves as the privacy police in an attempt to thwart competition.
I’m a privacy professional, not a lobbyist. I’ve been a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals for almost a decade, and sat on the board of the Network Advertising Initiative for over five years. The NAI is dedicated to the advancement of strong self-regulation for third-party ad technology. We put our money where our mouth is -- and continue to develop strong privacy standards for our members. If you haven’t already, please watch a recent discussion between NAI CEO Marc Groman and FTC Commissioner Julie Brill. Commissioner Brill commends the NAI as a “leader” in self-regulation. Part of our leadership role is insisting that our members adopt higher privacy standards. The NAI is not simply telling others to honor standards of transparency and choice. We’re taking proactive steps in order to move forward on issues of privacy.
So my advice to Mr. Kint and the Online Publisher’s Association is to tell the world what your members are doing to support privacy. Tell us exactly how you push for transparency across your members. Explain in great detail how your team personally reviews the privacy practices of all your large publisher members to ensure privacy-by-design and guard against their collection and use of data that might be contrary to consumer expectations. I’d enjoy having a constructive conversation about how all companies within the digital advertising marketplace could make themselves more transparent and privacy-friendly. And once you’ve started down the path of improving the privacy practices of your members, you might have a legitimate pulpit from which to preach.