In a sane world, telling a website “do not track me” would result in behavior that assumed the person making the request did not want to have unnecessary data collected about them.
But to the online advertising industry, that DNT:1 signal means, “Right, you’re one of those idiots who thinks this is about privacy. Now give me all your data. You’re welcome.”
I cannot make this stuff up. The representative to the W3C working group from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) proposed this change the other day to the Tracking Definitions and Compliance section of the DNT standard:
Marketing should be added to the list of “Permitted Uses for Third Parties and Service Providers” in Section 6.1 of the Tracking Definitions and Compliance Document.
Via email, two other members of the working group expressed confusion. One asked, “What do you mean by marketing? What would be permitted?” Another said, “I don’t follow.”
(This is how polite people in standards groups say “WTF?”)
That set off this astonishing outburst from the representative of the DMA, which boasts that it “represents thousands of companies and nonprofit organizations that use and support data-driven marketing practices and techniques“:
Marketing fuels the world. It is as American as apple pie and delivers relevant advertising to consumers about products they will be interested at a time they are interested. DNT should permit it as one of the most important values of civil society. Its byproduct also furthers democracy, free speech, and – most importantly in these times – JOBS. It is as critical to society – and the economy – as fraud prevention and IP protection and should be treated the same way.
Marketing as a permitted use would allow the use of the data to send relevant offers to consumers through specific devices they have used. The data could not be used for other purposes, such as eligibility for employment, insurance, etc. Thus, we move to a harm consideration. Ads and offers are just offers – users/consumers can simply not respond to those offers – there is no associated harm.
Further, DNT can stop all unnecessary uses of data using choice and for those consumers who do not want relevant marketing the can use the persistent Digital Advertising Alliance choice mechanism. This mechanism has been in place for 2 years.
So there you have it. If you oppose online tracking, you’re un-American and you hate democracy. Also, the fact that big corporations can collect and collate personal data about you without your permission is a cornerstone of civil society, you communist.