For nearly two years now, industry and advocates have been discussing how to implement "Do Not Track" — a setting in browsers that would allow companies to serve ads while limiting the collection of personal information about users. This week, dozens of ad industry representatives, browser makers, and consumer advocates are gathering in Amsterdam during a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) meeting to fine tune the details of how such a setting will work. However, in recent days, we have suddenly seen an all-out blitz of attacks on Do Not Track, both in Washington and Silicon Valley decrying Do Not Track as a disaster that would destroy the advertising-supported web.
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This sudden onslaught of debate targeting the merits of Do Not Track is surprising, as the advertising industry already voluntarily agreed to deploy Do Not Track by the end of this year. At a White House event in February, the Digital Advertising Alliance — the umbrella self-regulatory group consisting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Network Advertising Initiative, Better Business Bureau and others — publicly committed to honor browser-based signals to control "online behavioral advertising . . . and all other collection and use of web viewing data" (emphasis in original).