Like it or not, “Do Not Track” (a/k/a “DNT”) is coming as a result of Washington, the privacy community and technology companies. As industry moves closer to adopting some form of DNT, is it important to understand what it is, what it is not and what it might mean for the future of the affiliate marketing industry.
However, there is far from unanimity on how far Do Not Track should extend and whether it should be an opt-in or opt-out user preference.
It may very well be that industry adopted Do Not Track would not only result in an opt-out from targeted or behavioral advertising, but would opt-out users from all tracking for any purpose; including for purposes of affiliate marketing.
As an industry that relies upon accurate tracking to properly function, wide-spread adoption of DNT could be a cataclysmic event.
FTC Privacy Report
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) stated in its privacy report earlier this year that Do Not Track is an important area where progress is needed. Moreover, the report added that the FTC would work with browser vendors, industry groups, and the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”), an international standards-setting body, to “complete implementation of an easy-to-use, persistent, and effective Do Not Track system.”
The W3C’s Tracking Protection Working Group has been meeting since September 2011 to establish technological standards for Do Not Track. Since then, the W3C has issued a First Public Working Draft of “Tracking Compliance and Scope,” which defines the meaning of a Do Not Track preference and sets out practices for Web sites to comply with this preference.
Participants in the W3C process have included representatives of Apple, AT&T, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Electronics Frontier Foundation, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Yahoo!, and the FTC, among others.
Microsoft, a participant in the W3C project, recently surprised the industry by unilaterally announcing that Internet Explorer 10 would have the Do Not Track feature on by default. This position goes farther than the FTC and W3C which have indicated that DNT will be option for users to select, but will not be the default position. Based on the market share of Internet Explorer, this could have a huge impact.
Key Questions for the Affiliate Marketing Industry
There are many unanswered questions in this DNT process, such as (i) what exceptions to the all or nothing DNT preference will be implemented, (ii) will websites honor the DNT preference setting if it is implanted and (iii) how will industry trade groups and the FTC react.
There will certainly be an impact on the affiliate marketing industry. The question is how great of an impact and how will the industry adapt to life in a DNT world?
Gary Kibel is a Partner with the law firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP.
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FeedFront issue 19 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2012/7