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Do Not Track supporters draw their line in the sand

Play by the rules or pay the penalties
Thu Oct 11 2012, 11:12
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SUPPORTERS of the Do Not Track standard have warned its detractors that they won't stand for any nonsense, and have given backers an encouraging nudge in the direction of fair implementation.

In Europe, Neelie Kroes, the VP of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, has just given a speech in which she cautioned the industry against ignoring Do Not Track, messing around with its standards or abusing the cookie system.

Speaking at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels she said, "Standardisation work is not going according to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned. About the delay, and about the turn taken by the discussions hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). I think that won't come as a surprise to you. And I know that my colleagues across the Atlantic, at the Federal Trade Commission, feel the same."

So what is the problem? According to Kroes the problem is a watering down of the standard, and she repeated her earlier calls for firm rules that actually protect the individual.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I will say it again today: the DNT standard must be rich and meaningful enough to make a difference, when it comes to protecting people's privacy," she said.

"It should build on the principle of informed consent, giving people control over their information. And, indeed, it must be designed to let people choose to not be tracked. The clue is in the name: do NOT track."

European Minister though she might be, Kroes also aimed her warning at those American companies that ultimately could make or break the standard. She's looking at the internet giants, and their implementation of the rules when she says that European regulators won't stand for any nonsense.

"I mean everyone," she said. "Including American companies. Because if you want to track Europeans, you have to play by our rules. Our new data protection framework is crystal-clear on that point.Including online businesses. In the long term, the online economy won't grow if it acts against the grain, against the wishes of ordinary users, against their need for trust. And under such conditions, nor can online services prosper."

Over the pond Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus co-chairs Joe Barton and Edward Markey expressed their disappointment at statements from the Digital Advertising Alliance that call for avoidance of the standard and ignoring of its guidance.

"Privacy is an issue that affects everyone, and the Digital Advertising Alliance's announcement made clear that it puts profits over privacy. If consumers want to be tracked online, they should have to opt-in to be tracked, instead of the other way around," they said.

"This is why we are disappointed to hear the Digital Advertising Alliance insist that it will not honor Microsoft's "Do Not Track" default and will not penalise companies that ignore it."

The Digital Advertising Alliance is a self regulatory group for online behavioural advertisers. µ

 

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