Neelie Kroes Warns On Do Not Track Watering Down

Neelie Kroes, who is leading the Digital Agenda campaign in the European Commission, has urged those putting together the Do Not Track (DNT) standard not to water it down.

Advertisers have been keen to ensure their ability to track user activity is not severely hindered by DNT, which is being developed by a number of parties and overseen by W3C.

Microsoft angered advertisers earlier this year when it said it would turn DNT on by default in Internet Explorer 10. When faced with criticism from marketers, it responded by saying it would still keep DNT on by default, but would ensure it matched up with user preferences.

W3C has indicated certain compromises might need to be made, such as allowing companies to gather data from cookies for use in market research, even where DNT had been switched on.

Do Not Track, Do Not Water Down

But Kroes has warned against any such compromises. “What is the problem? Top of my list comes the watering down of the standard,” she said, in a speech at the Centre for European Policy Studies today.

“I said it last June, and I said it in January. Loud and clear. But, 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.

“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.”

Jim Killock, executive director at the Open Rights Group who is an invited expert on the W3C panel for DNT, backed Kroes call to prevent marketers from having too much influence.

“We have seen attempts by advertisers to stall, water down and even exclude ad tracking from the new standard,” Killock added.

“Do Not Track is a great idea, but could easily be meaningless. If it fails to protect our privacy, then advertising profiling companies are likely to come under renewed attack from legislators. The ad groups who are pushing to make DNT full of holes should realise they are damaging their own industry in the long run.”

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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