Choice of Advertising Network

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Working Draft

This document is dedicated to the Public Domain to the extent possible, and is developed under the terms of the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA). All ideas are contributed to public knowledge and no patent claims are made over them and in the event that the contributors do make patent claims they grant a royalty free license to everyone for anything and forever.


Giving users a choice over the advertising network, if any, that they use to display advertisements on their computer screen can encourage an ecosystem that creates value for the user by meeting their privacy needs and in doing so can address some imbalances that have lead to a lose of user security and privacy when using the web. Allowing content authors to declare a donation account to which users can direct a portion of the advertising viewing or action rewards can create a revenue stream for websites authors. Giving users a choose over the advertising application they use to view advertisements will allow them to choose one suited to their computing device, such as choosing to view advertising 'full screen' on a device with a small screen. A healthy ecosystem would be expected to innovate and find more value for users beyond the benefits noted here.

Value for Governments

Giving your voters an easier choice of the what they display on their own computer screens gives them the possibility of choosing to use an advertising network that collects revenue and pays tax within your jurisdiction. Some of the big businesses in the market aggressively minimize their tax by booking revenue in foreign countries, and if you find it hard to address this problem, then support this work and leave it to the free market and your voters to address the matter.

Voters have a significant concern for privacy on the web. A good deal of this relates to tracking and profiling by the web advertising industry and supporting health ecosystem of advertising networks can directly address this by supporting the emergence of businesses that: design there systems with privacy in mind; keep the information in the users local jurisdiction; compete on their support for user privacy.

Infrastructure developed to support and protect this user choice may require improved security and privacy built into the web standards and this has more general benefit for users of the web.

Relation to other work

Do Not Track

The Do Not Track specification allows users to request not to be tracked. The success of this approach depends on cooperation by established advertising networks who do not compete for users based on privacy or security and have little incentive to do so. The current DNT specification includes a huge range of exemptions that permit covert monitoring and data collection. The specification development process has been framed as a 'negotiation' between stake holders and this has resulted in advertisers stating that if they do not get their way then they will not implement or follow a 'Do Not Track' request. Giving users a choice over the advertising network they use offers a way forward by allowing businesses that do not wish to comply to do so, but also creating a market that allows new businesses to enter the market and offer better respect for user privacy. There are technological solutions that do not even require the user to be tracked and profiled while still delivering targeted advertising and businesses offering users such choices would be able to enter the market and find a niche among users that value privacy.

Markup declarations for advertising

One option is to allow content pages to include markup that declares regions of a page available for advertising - such as a banner. HTML elements such as the 'iframe' are commonly used to include advertising so could be easily adapted. When markup is not supplied, and the advertising is hard coded into the content, the UA could detect it and rewrite the document as necessary.

Working at the document level would require improvements to the web browser security to ensure that the user choices are secure and can not be leaked. The current DOM/Script framework does not adequately secure the user from having page usage monitored and covertly leaked. The work of the W3C PUA CG in addressing the general security and privacy of the web browser may help.

The markup may fit within a more general framework of 'declarative web intents' and be useful for giving users choice over other pages elements. For example, a choice over editors for text input elements.

The markup could allow the content authors to declare a donation account to which the user could donate a portion of their advertising reward for viewing advertisements or acting on advertisements. Markup could also support viewing advertisements in a separate application separate from the page content that would could still reward the content author, and standard web app security could protect the user in this case - this would be expected to be a good option for small screen devices.

Overlaying advertising

One option is to overlay advertising over the web browser rendering layer. This may require less improvement in web browser security than a solution that modifies the document at the DOM level. The webpage content might still usefully include markup to assist defining where to place advertisements and to give an author donation account. One option is for a webpage to include images with a QR style code in reserved locations and the overlay program could search for these and decode the code which might include the authors donation account. When the webpage author does not cooperate, the advertising overlay application could try to detect advertising and overlay user advertisements from a user chosen network to at least reduce the incentive for not easily supporting the user choice.

User rewards

The user would have a choice to donate a portion of the rewards for viewing or acting on advertisements back to the content author. The user could also choose to redeem the reward when placing an order, or send the rewards to their favorite charity, or join a rewards program, etc.

Small scale advertising networks

Supporting a healthy ecosystem of advertising networks might support small scale advertising networks and cater to smaller community groups. Businesses might emerge that offer infrastructure services for small businesses and allow anyone to create their own advertising network and go out and get customers and sell it to users. Businesses might emerge that offer directories of such businesses etc.

For example, a local community sporting club might register as an advertising network, and suggest members choose to use their network, and seek local businesses that want to advertise.