Do-Not-Track Will Benefit Our Whole Industry

I recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that current efforts to protect consumer privacy in digital media were falling short. In any industry, it’s always better to be self-critical, perhaps overly so, rather than to assume one’s efforts are perfect. I suggested that a more vigorous “Do-Not-Track” (DNT) system might be part of the answer. Some in the industry took strong exception to my thoughts. Fair enough. But let me take just a few minutes to further clarify the points made in my original article.

Like it or not, our industry has a trust issue with consumers. This is not to suggest in any way that we need government to dictate the solution for us. On the contrary, we have to build a self-regulatory system that works: one that consumers feel is transparent, honest and effective and is for their benefit. We all inhabit the same media ecosystem. If we don’t keep it clean and healthy, we will lose consumers’ trust and sacrifice the opportunity for current and future industry leaders to innovate.



Second, because I’m the CEO of the Online Publishers Association, an organization that mostly represents large content creators, some suggested that our support of DNT is also an attempt to disadvantage small content creators and businesses by putting an emphasis on first-party data.  Nothing could be further from the truth. All content creators – large and small – benefit when consumers trust not only the information or entertainment they’re consuming, but also the overall context in which that information is being presented. This includes the advertising that helps to subsidize the use of this content, and the personal data that is captured from such consumption. This is not a small versus large company issue. It is an industry issue. Those who would seek to exploit it by attempting to divide the industry are doing much more harm than good.

I’d also like to clarify that I am not “against” new advertising technologies that improve targeting, efficiency and workflow. What I will not support – nor should any marketer or agency leader – is the mismanagement of consumer data and outright fraud.  Advertising technology, including smarter targeting, is a huge benefit to marketers, agencies and the consumer. But this only works when we have a healthy and transparent system in place. Yes, we’ve made enormous strides but we are not there yet. Those who so vigorously oppose the debate doth protest too much.

Working groups like the DAA and W3C endeavor to work as a united force to create systems and methods in support of transparency and trust. A privacy mechanism like DNT is a part of that, an enabler of trust. The Internet has enormous reach into our daily lives. Significant problems arise when consumers aren’t fully aware of the choices they have in managing how their personal data is gathered and used by all of us in the business: wireless operators, browser providers, media companies, search companies, social networks and advertisers.  The purpose of DNT is not to quell innovation but to find common ground so the controls over tracking – how information is collected and shared – are more apparent to the consumer.

A DNT browser setting – one that can be easily turned on and off by the consumer – is a simple way for non-technical people to have a choice over whether their data is shared across the Web. This is a perfectly reasonable expectation. Consumers should be equipped with a simple, effective way to choose who collects data from them, the same way they choose which websites and apps they visit and use. In the long run, everyone – content creators, marketers, agencies and the consumer – all benefit.

4 comments about "Do-Not-Track Will Benefit Our Whole Industry".
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  1. Ahmad Moradi from NETSTAIRS.COM INC., August 29, 2014 at 11:35 a.m.

    As a CEO of interactive solution provider, I have been preaching nearly for 14 years what you have just elegantly stated. DNT should be a fundamental policy that promotes respect and privacy. In our company's case, we require no download, no install no cookies (except 3rd party integration).

  2. Craig Spiezle from AgeLight LLC, August 29, 2014 at 11:52 a.m.

    The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), supports this POV and the need for us to work collectively to make user centricity and trust the core part of a brand's value proposition. We must be willing to make some changes to protect the long-term value exchange consumer are receiving vs. continually to lobby and argue against change. Despite what some lobby groups suggest, DNT will not be the death of advertising or the revenue streams we see today. Looking ahead DNT could increase trust, click through and the value of ads that fund online services.

  3. Mike O'Neill from Baycoud Systems, September 2, 2014 at 7:28 a.m.

    Both Do Not Track and the e-privacy directive were designed to give people control over tracking.
    The "implied consent" idea and the DNT process were both in essence about helping sites manage the inevitable transition to prior consent. Sites could imply consent if a visitor continued to navigate their site. Outside the EU third-parties could continue to track unless the DNT header was present.
    Both allowed sites to assume consent had been given, in the majority of cases initially, but many people would soon learn that they could revoke their consent or set Do Not Track in their browser. If a user does this then tracking measures must be stopped anyway, so the ability to do that must be implemented by the site.
    This is why we at Baycloud Systems concentrated from the start on the technology needed to manage 1st party and third-party storage.
    Cookies and other storage used for tracking will have to be managed even if initially only it is required in the minority of cases.
    There are many ways that information can be given and consent obtained, and it should be entirely up to the site how to do that, though we offer model implementations of these different techniques to our customers.
    We realised early on that implementing tag management was not that easy for many sites, though we worked to make it as simple as possible. We saw that the DNT process could help with this and decided to get involved with the W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group over 2 years ago.
    Because sites up till now have tended not to respect the DNT header many people had to resort to crude script and advertising blocking browser extensions. Because these make arbitrary and often partisan decisions about which website elements to block this has lead to diminished web experiences, and damaged the business operations of the responsible publishers and brands who take data protection and privacy seriously.
    The DNT signal is now supported by all major browsers and the standard is close to finalisation. The DNT consent API has been implemented by Microsoft's Internet Explorer which will soon be followed by others. Until the signal is widely respected by 3rd parties, sites in Europe will need to use tag management conditioned by user consent, and we have always supported this. But ultimately sites will be able to rely on agreements with 3rd parties that they honour DNT and they will only need tag management for the few companies that continue not to.
    The availability of DNT support and its consent API in browsers will complement Europe's data protection and privacy law, and make it far easier for sites anywhere in the world to give people control over tracking.

  4. Evan Hovorka from Target, September 3, 2014 at 10:08 p.m.

    The sad reality is, to truly opt out of all online marketing/tracking , one has to give up a lot of personal information. This reality does not exist. What we have are weak and temporary solutions like the IAB opt process. Pretty sure that was built with sole purpose of appeasing an out of touch group of legislators. Real opt management comes when the internet knows who u are collectively, that means every device and every browse session that I make would need to tie back to a central identification process that all ad tech would have to access to in order to honor my opt out preferences... In other words, one needs to share so much more with the scary ad servers and publishers to get less targeted marketing. Out side of some technical, low breadth hardware solution this is the only way. Good news for bloggers and publishers of opt management articles, you won't be out of content for a loooong time.

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