The Web has transformed how we do business, how we interact, and how we innovate. As a result, the future of Web technology can be a high-stakes conversation. When stakeholders with strong competing interests engage in that conversation, controversy is common — even inevitable.
That is what we are seeing today around online tracking. The controversy comes as no surprise to W3C, which has nearly 20 years of experience helping competitors find consensus around Web technology. That is one of the key ways in which we fulfill our mission of leading the Web to its full potential. The privacy ecosystem — which includes advertising companies, browser makers, privacy experts, regulatory bodies, and users — has come to W3C as the venue to define a “Do Not Track” standard because, as an ecosystem, they need a standard for the Web.
The W3C Tracking Protection Working Group is meeting face-to-face in Seattle this week to discuss and advance its work on “Do Not Track” (DNT). The fundamental approach behind Do Not Track is cooperative: to achieve a voluntary standard that expresses a user preference, an effective Do Not Track that improves user privacy and permits advertising companies and other players that track users to address growing privacy concerns, we need participation and agreement from all parties in the ecosystem.
There is tremendous value to having a global standard in this space. Users can express their preference about online tracking in a reliable fashion. Advertisers and other third parties have a reliable mechanism to respect customer wishes, which is good business. They also have an easier way to meet diverse regulatory requirements and reduce the cost of operating in different markets. There are respectable views on all sides of the various issues before the Working Group, and W3C is committed to an inclusive and fair discussion and debate.
We know there is controversy. W3C believes that to make progress for the industry and the Web, the competing interests must share their views in an open, global forum with all the Web’s stakeholders: public and private, reader and publisher, technology producer and end user. This style of work includes the often difficult quest for solutions that are acceptable to the different stakeholders in the room, and open and respectful discussions of the merits of all proposals.
As an organization, we remain committed to the group’s mission as stated in its charter: “to improve user privacy and user control by defining mechanisms for expressing user preferences around Web tracking.” We commend all of those in the Working Group who are raising options, identifying opportunities, and working towards implementable solutions.