back to article Do Not Track W3C murder plot fails by handful of votes

The privacy-enhancing Do Not Track standard is wobbling badly after barely surviving a no-confidence vote by the W3C consortium. Held among World Wide Web Committee (W3C) working group members, the vote against drafting a Do-Not-Track (DNT) standard was narrowly defeated by a majority of just five. W3C members working on the …


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  1. Down not across

    The N in DNT is NOT

    "The DAA in July tried to introduce wording into the DNT spec that would have let their members continue targeting consumers even if they'd enabled DNT in the browser.

    This was rejected by the group. Earlier, the DAA had told the W3C that any attempt to place restrictions on its members collecting users' data would be a "non starter.""

    Which bit of DO NOT TRACK don't you ad-monkeys understand?

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: The N in DNT is NOT

      "Which bit of DO NOT TRACK don't you ad-monkeys understand?"

      Oh, they understand it *very* well indeed, all of it. They just don't want DNT to exist. In fact, they'd rather it had never existed. But being that it has existed, and does exist as a Work In Progress, they inevitably want to evade it, or neuter it, and are willing to promise to just plain ignore it in order to get their way.

      For me, though, the whole idea stank of fatuously optimistic naive idealism, right from the very beginning.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: The N in DNT is NOT

      Which bit of DO NOT TRACK don't you ad-monkeys understand?

      The word "NOT", apparently (or at least not in this context)

      None are so deaf as those who do not want to hear

  2. SD24576

    If all the browser makers are aligned on the pro-DNT side, can't they unilaterally only display ads that are known to be compliant with DNT if it is enabled and forget what the ad-monkeys want?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Google are one of the biggest browser makers. I think you'll find this is no coincidence.

      Just as they went into mobile OS design in order to defend their dominant position in advertising (amongst other aims), they also went into browsers to protect their core business, as well as to ensure compatibility with docs.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Google wasn't listed as a browser maker on the pro-DNT side or as an ad-broker on the anti-DNT side. Which are they?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My Guess, the evil side....

        1. Martin Budden Silver badge


          Advertising is not itself inherently evil: advertising is essential for business to happen. Can you imagine a world with *no* advertising? How would you ever find a plumber when you need one in a hurry?! The same applies to tracking: it simply means the ads we see are more relevant to our needs/wants, and that's not evil either.

          Some of us know that we are not the type to respond to online advertising and would therefore rather not be distracted by online ads on the pages we are trying to read (to say nothing of the extra time & cost of downloading ads we don't want) which is why we should be allowed to opt out of seeing ads and being tracked. Denying us that option *is* evil.

          1. P. Lee

            Re: evil?

            > it simply means the ads we see are more relevant to our needs/wants, and that's not evil either.

            Which is true in theory. It works until you find out how they determine our needs/wants.

            Then you find them thoroughly intrusive and veering towards evil. There's nothing wrong with ads per se, its the ad-broker activities which people really object to.

          2. dogged

            Re: evil?

            > How would you ever find a plumber when you need one in a hurry?!

            They'd look in the fucking phone book, exactly the way they used to before spamvertising parasites (and yes, Google are one of these) tried to take over the world.

            1. Maharg

              Re: evil? @Dogged

              >(on a world without adverts) How would you ever find a plumber when you need one in a hurry?!

              >"They'd look in the fucking phone book"

              Yes, because getting your business listed in the Phone book is free and is nothing like a big book full of advertising…

              1. dogged

                Re: evil? @Dogged

                It's a book full of adverts that you never open unless you're looking for goods or services.

                What it isn't is a supposedly helpful website that has content on it you wish to read but also tracks you for arseholes in the advertising industry.

                Who do you work for?

                1. Maharg

                  Re: evil? @Dogged (sigh)

                  Original post “Advertising is not itself inherently evil: advertising is essential for business to happen. Can you imagine a world with *no* advertising? How would you ever find a plumber when you need one in a hurry?!”

                  Your response “ Look in the fucking phone book”

                  My Point was that a phone book is a book full of advertising

                  The response you gave was to the question “ can you imagine a world with no advertising?”

                  In a world with no advertising there would be no phone book would there? Because (once again) a phone book is a book that people pay to have their companies listed in, or in other words ADVERTISING.

                  I don’t know how to make this any simpler, would you like me to carry on reiterating the same point?

                  Who do you work for? Ha! Nice try, no I don’t work in marketing for anyone, Just because someone disagrees with you it doesn’t make them a corporate shrill, I’m sure that’s written down here somewhere, take you conspiracies somewhere else, I just have this ability to read and understand context, you should try it.

                  Or in other words, Who do you work for, the “fucking phone book”?

                  1. Intractable Potsherd

                    Re: evil? @Dogged (sigh)

                    And here is the root of the problem - what is advertising? Where are the limits on it?

                    Whilst the phone book is a form of advertising, it is unobtrusive and under the control of the person looking for whatever goods or services s/he requires when s/he requires it. It does not send data back to the publisher or others about when and where it is opened. It is also exactly the same as the phone book my neighbours get. I'd say the same about newspaper, magazine and TV ads - even though they are more obviously "advertising", they are passive and in the control of the reader.

                    Now contrast this with online "advertising", which is, quite frankly, creepy, and go beyond the limits of what should be allowed in the pursuit of flogging things. The entire concept puts the control in the hands of the advertisers, which is definitely where it shouldn't be. It erodes privacy and moves the active role into the wrong place. It needs to be stopped, not just controlled.

                    1. Maharg

                      Re: evil? @Intractable Potsherd

                      Exactly right.

                      Advertising is all around us, those smug little "Sent from my iPhone” sentences you get on the end of emails, the reason the name on the top of a laptop is upside down when closed , to the fact that coke cans are designed with the logo at the correct angle for it still to be shown when being held by a right handed person, and I agree that these are either things you can control or things you (think) you can ignore, while targeted online advertising is another ball game.

                      But, the comment from Dogged was the idea that phone books would exist in a world without advertising.

                      I agree with Martin Budden’s point (The one Dogged felt the need to use the F word, a thumbs down and a big red stop sign in reply) which was-

                      “Advertising is not itself inherently evil: advertising is essential for business to happen.” … “we should be allowed to opt out of seeing (online) ads and being tracked.”

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is anyone really surprised?

    That the members whos business is all about collecting data from, and targeting end users would make it impossible to produce a standard?

    Did anyone really believe that the presence of members who REALLY want end user tracking was conducive to producing a standard?

    Did everyone not already know that "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas"?

    1. Rick Damiani

      Re: Is anyone really surprised?

      It's more like the advertisers offered this as a way for users who cared about tracking to avoid tracking. It's the browser vendors who decided to switch from opt-in to opt-out in violation of the original agreement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is anyone really surprised?

        And the advertisers think they're going to direct browser vendors about how their software will work? Really?

        If the major browser vendors decide to actively block whatever this DAA standard is... then they're completely fucked, they burnt their bridges to the very people who could destroy any attempt by them to track anyone.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    W3C against privacy & for DRM

    They need sidelining.

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: W3C against privacy & for DRM

      They are not actually for DRM. They just accept that as it's already here, having a standard to code to will make it easier for the end user to control.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: W3C against privacy & for DRM

        "having a standard to code to will make it easier for the end user to control"

        The whole point of the DRM is that the user controls nothing. Making it part of the standard just means that anyone refusing to use DRMs on their websites will be accused of aiding "piracy" by the IP cartels.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: W3C against privacy & for DRM

          Put it this way. The content providers don't need the web. They can either embrace the web or marginalize it. At this stage, they already seem to be learning towards marginalize since they intend to push forth a 4K standard that's under their complete control from top to bottom, from the encoders to the receivers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @John G Imrie - Re: W3C against privacy & for DRM

        End user in control ?

        Please double check before sniffing/inhaling/swallowing. Oh, and don't do this unless paramedics are in close range.

  5. silent_count

    "The privacy-enhancing Do Not Track standard... "

    Does it?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the W2C that need sidelining...'s the Ad agencies in favour of tracking that need to be seriously marginalised instead.

  7. Splodger

    To get an idea of the sheer numbers of buggers tracking you, can I suggest that Firefox users install (even if only temporarily) an add-on from Mozilla called Lightbeam?

    Absolutely amazed me, anyway. And that's in spite of using Adblock Plus, Better Privacy, Self Destructing Cookies, Ghostery, etc.

    1. M Gale

      And that's why you use things like TrackMeNot. If you can't go under the radar, you might as well obliterate it with chaff.

      Only problem with TMN is it seems to only hit search engines with random sentences. It needs to start spreading out and spidering the web, really. And presenting itself as multiple user agents. And ignoring robots.txt, however rude that might seem.

  8. Identity

    Foxes guarding the henhouse?

    I don't think so. Any entrenched entity making money on tracking will naturally a) be against DNT and b) would dearly love to pass a sham of a standard so they can appear to be on the side of the angels while cavorting with Mammon and Moloch.

    For myself, I would much rather have a tool designed by those whose sole raison d'etre was creating a working tool, not just the appearance of one...

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Foxes guarding the henhouse?

      > would dearly love to pass a sham of a standard so they can appear to be on the side of the angels while cavorting with Mammon and Moloch.

      Haha, I read that as "Mammon and Murdoch" which also works.

  9. Roo

    DNT is obselete and pointless from the users's point of view.

    1) The NSA leaks indicate that they can reconstruct web browsing sessions, and they seem to be capable of leaking everything they track too.

    2) DNT is at best a polite request, and as such it can (and will) be ignored when it suits the ad-men.

    At best DNT will save the honest web masters a bit of time and effort hacking up something bespoke to do the job. I suppose it may inform any legislation relating to it, which I guess is what the ad-men care about most, but quite frankly I doubt it given the mountain of evidence that indicates that legislators have no interest, competence or knowledge of "techie" stuff.

  10. pip25

    DNT is already dead, sadly

    Since IE has it on by default, no ad provider can or will take it seriously. Well done Microsoft, something tells me this was your intention from the start. :(

    1. Charles 9

      Re: DNT is already dead, sadly

      I don't know. If Microsoft starts considering these ad firms to be untrustworthy, they may start using DNT in a whitelist and ENFORCE trust by saying "you better be honoring DNT or we'll block you by default". Since Microsoft doesn't need ad money to exist, they don't have to kowtow to them, so the ad agencies can't pressure Microsoft.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: DNT is already dead, sadly

        No big business is immune to financial pressure, no matter how big or powerful. If you have the money, you can make any business do what you want. Kings, Queens, Presidents and Parliaments are less susceptible to to outside financial influence than big businesses and you can buy those things fairly cheap. MS is certainly no different and the advertising lobby has a lot of money to spend.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DNT is already dead, sadly

      Fucking hell. MS are against tracking (in principle), implement it as default, are on the pro side and you STILL slag them off. How about bashing the o-so-lovely Google.

      Give them a bashing where it's due, but ffs this petty minded bollocks is really boring.

  11. earl grey

    vote of no confidence was defeated

    Somehow I don't think Palpatine will be pleased.

  12. Robert Grant

    Going forward...

    Seriously. People whose who job is communications need to come and read to my mighty, Register-based pronouncements on the utter pointlessness of saying "going forward" when it's the only option. To whit:

    "Going forward, the DAA intends to focus its time and efforts on growing this already-successful consumer choice program in "desktop," mobile and in-app environments. The DAA is confident that such efforts will yield greater advances in consumer privacy and industry self-regulation than would its continued participation at the W3C."

    And don't get me started on the quotation mark nesting going on here. Brrr.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Going forward...

      > And don't get me started on the quotation mark nesting going on here. Brrr.

      That is what comes of not teaching perl!

  13. Laie Techie

    When DNT was first being discussed, there were the same kind of discussion. There is no technical way to force ad producers to NOT track viewers of said ads. DNT is just a header saying "please, don't track me"; there is no enforcement. The very TCP/IP protocols require the IP address to be in the packet headers (w/o this information, the server wouldn't know where to send the reply).

    I like the idea of not being tracked, but we're at the mercy of the ad-servers.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      We are indeed at the mercy of the advertising industry. And there's a legitimate amount of tracking they can get away with, that most people won't mind. And of course we have inertia, where no-one can be bothered to spend actual time and effort to deal with something as abstract as privacy.

      But things can change. Society can go from thinking one thing to thinking the opposite very, very quickly. Given the right kind of scandal. And suddenly a company's cushy market can collapse overnight. So what the advertising companies need to be careful of is taking the piss completely. You want to fleece the sheep, not skin it. That way, there'll be more fleece for you next year.

      It probably won't happen. But there are circumstances which could lead to a browser maker like Firefox nuking large amounts of the online advertising industry by implementing blocking, cookie control manageable my mere mortals or something. OK Firefox take a load of cash from Google, and are less of a player now Chrome's overtaken them, but Microsoft aren't a big online advertising player, and have all kinds of incentives to piss on Google's chips...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What you can hope, and lobby for, is an environment wherein certain groups of marketeers adopt compliance with DNT in order that government doesn't come down hard on them. They'd rather see a self-policing situation than see the politicians involved.

      I'm thinking similar to the way certain marketing agencies and companies adopted the Mail Preference Service in the UK.

  14. Lockwood

    Yay, new standards

    Let's see if I understand some of the history of this right.

    A new standard was proposed, the DNT header.

    Unlike their usual behaviour, Microsoft didn't wait for a finalised version before adding support for it to IE.

    They then set it to default, which is likely to be what most users would set it to anyway. "Would you like to be tracked? Yes/No"

    Apache then said "IE is supporting this and pushing it by default, therefore we shall ignore this header"

    W3C are now debating it further and not really liking the idea now

    Is that paraphrasing close?

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Yay, new standards

      Yes. The point being that a default on setting would be so ubiquitous that ad agencies would ignore it, rendering it pointless.

      The idea is to offer a little bit of hope to those who can be bothered.

      Personally, I suspect flashblock, noscript and always using incognito is probably your best bet.

      1. Lockwood

        Re: Yay, new standards

        "The point being that a default on setting would be so ubiquitous that ad agencies would ignore it, rendering it pointless"

        So we'll get the httpd to ignore it instead, saving the ad agency the time and effort!

    2. dogged

      Re: Yay, new standards

      To be specific, one guy on the Apache project said that.

      That guy is paid by Adobe, who make a metric fuckton of their income from tracking ads.

      Sometimes jumping to the obvious conclusion is unhelpful.

  15. Pseu Donyme

    As a (partial) solution by other means, ISPs could offer privacy options (that might be enabled by default for the great unwashed), such as NAT (effectively destroying the association with an IP-address and a particular user/device, already widely used with mobile data) and mapping known ad servers and other trackers to (or similar) in DNS (akin AdAway / custom hosts file).

    1. Rukario

      The problem with this ... at least, the problem for the advertisers is...

      Who in their right minds will disable these privacy options?

      If this were to happen, the entire tracking industry might as well shrivel up and die (like Monsanto in Europe). and zero fucks (from me anyway) will be given.

  16. Keep Refrigerated

    Advertising Standards

    Maybe instead of working on a tech standard that only works based on the whims of the advertiser, they should be working on an advertising standard in and of itself.

    Specifying when, how and in what format advertising should appear. I have no problem with unobtrusive ads, it's the one's that popup in front of the text I'm trying to read, with loud noises or graphics.

    Advertisers: Big splashy graphics, noise and popup windows make me NOT want to buy anything you produce.

    Youtube: rather than a stupid minute long ad I don't want to watch, letting me skip after 5 seconds - which I almost always do; just have a 2 second splash that states "Video brought to you by..." (Google used to know how to do subtle advertising. Why does it seem like they've gone out and hired all the obnoxious marketers from other failed web-enterprises?)

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: Advertising Standards

      noisy ads made me modify my hosts file at work. It's also why I use noscript at home.

      I agree with you fully, I don't mind non-obtrusive ads. Occasionally I'll even click on one. ONE ad that makes noise, and I block your network.

      The exceptions are ads in videos. I'm expecting the video to make noise, so the ad isn't so bad, provided it's not exceptionally louder then the video.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems like a pretty convincing majority to me... 12%

  18. Thomas Allen

    Browser that doesn't request those ad company urls

    A browser should be made that does not even send out requests to the ad networks. Why should I even request the ads whose urls appear in the webpage? No reason to, as far as I can see.

  19. dan1980

    The 'price' keeps increasing.

    What gets me is not that the ad companies are against this - of course they are. It's that when talking about tracking and privacy, they deliberately ignore the elephant, which is that most users don't want to be tracked.

    They talk about "richer experiences" and more "relevant content" and generally carry on as if they are doing all this for the users and that they should be happy about it.

    I understand that advertising supports many of the websites we all love (including el Reg) but things aren't free; we 'pay' by looking at ads - that's the deal. The point is that, like any deal, we all want fair value and with the ever-increasing tracking that is going on, the 'price' of visiting websites is increasing.

    Unfortunately, monopolies mean we all end up paying more for stuff and Google's monopoly in online advertising is no different - we are being asked to give them ever more information in exchange for content. It's fast turning into a very bad deal indeed but unfortunately we don't really have much choice and that is why such tracking and collating of our personal lives will continue largely unabated.

    On an unrelated note, I recently decided to spruce up my foil hat with some nice pictures of rain clouds and half-empty glasses.

  20. PyLETS
    Big Brother

    DNT obsolete

    If a site wants to make a polite request clickable by the user they can ask and may even try to cultivate the kind of good reputation where users will believe this preference will be respected. Given most web browsers are unlikely to be configured by their users, what the DNT on the client says is likely to be only marginally related to the behaviour the user actually wants. Better for users who know what they want to control how the browser stores cookies and other history, and then there's no opt out for an advertiser who prefers to ignore a configured browser preference.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: DNT obsolete

      Unless there is a way for a browser to track whether or not ad sites are honoring DNT or not. Doubt it could be logistically pulled off (since the ads can pretty much become indistinguishable from actual pages), but a framework like that would be needed to make DNT enforceable since sites ignoring DNT could be labeled untrustworthy and blocked by default.

  21. Mike Moyle

    Maybe we can come to a compromise...

    We'll allow you to track users.

    You're just not allowed to PROFIT from that tracking; you can't sell, rent, or give away the data and you can't use it to push advertisements. And you are required to keep that data safe from any third party that might want to use it in any ways that are disallowed by the rule or illegal.

    There. Everybody gets what they're asking for. Problem solved.

  22. WeeJB

    Is it not the case that whatever legislation is passed, the advertisers will find a way to circumvent it as they did with app permissions.

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