The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG) has suffered a major blow as the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), a “consortium of the leading national advertising and marketing trade groups,” has declared they are withdrawing from the TPWG.

In a letter addressed to W3C CEO, Jeff Jaffe, Lou Mastria, Managing Director of the DAA writes, “Despite extension after extension of its charter year after year by the W3C, the TPWG has yet to reach agreement on the most elementary and material issues facing the group. These open items include fundamental issues and key definitions that have been discussed by this group since its inception without reaching consensus…”

The TPWG was chartered more than two years ago to standardize the technology and meaning of Do Not Track by working with privacy activists and the advertising industry in order come up with a satisfactory self-regulatory system. In this time, the TPWG has failed to come to consensus on any of the issues needed to effectively create the self-regulatory system such as defining something as essential as the term “tracking.” The DAA’s departure comes shortly after experts Peter Swire and Jonathan Mayer left the group in August. Peter Swire is a law professor and privacy expert who was the co-chairman of the TPWG before he left to work with the Obama administration’s intelligence review panel. Jonathan Mayer of Stanford University is a graduate student in law and computer science who left the group in August after saying in July that the “parties are now further apart on the negotiations than they ever had been.”

The future of W3C’s TPWG is uncertain and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and privacy advocates in Congress have been waiting two years for progress. Avoiding government regulation of the Do Not Track system was one of the reasons for the creation of the TPWG; however, with this lack of progress, more attention and effort may be given to passing Do Not Track legislation.

Currently, Sens. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Blumenthal (D-CT) have a bill pending in the Senate called the Do Not Track Online Act of 2013. This bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to establish standardized mechanisms for people to alert websites that they do not want to be tracked and to create rules prohibiting online services from collecting information when a consumer selects a Do Not Track option on their Internet browser. The FTC has up to this point declined to recommend legislative action, but Agency Chairwoman Edith Ramirez told The Hill in late August that, “There may be a solution that can be achieved. That doesn’t mean to say that I’m willing to be waiting endlessly.” With the DAA’s departure from the TPWG, the FTC’s position may become more amenable to Do Not Track legislation.

This ambiguity surrounding the progress of the Do Not Track standards may have prompted California Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi to introduce AB 370, a bill amending the California Online Privacy Protection Act to require commercial websites and online services that collect personal data to disclose how they will respond to Do Not Track signals from a user’s Internet browser. AB 370 was passed by the California Senate and Assembly and now awaits Governor Brown’s signature. Continued lack of progress in developing and implementing Do Not Track standards may give reason for other states to enact similar legislation to California’s AB 370.

The DAA still believes that there is a non-regulatory solution to the Do Not Track problem and intends to create its own DAA-led group with a new process to evaluate Do Not Track signals and how they can enhance consumer privacy.

“Digital Advertising Alliance Withdraws from W3C Tracking Protection Working Group” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq., CIPP, CIPA. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.