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Do Not Track: Why We’re Unaffected (Updated)

Do Not Track

The W3C have been deciding what counts as tracking for some time, because of political debate about "Do Not Track" proposals (Wikipedia). They have published the following draft definition:

Tracking is the collection of data regarding a particular user's activity across multiple distinct contexts and the retention, use, or sharing of data derived from that activity outside the context in which it occurred. A context is a set of resources that are controlled by the same party or jointly controlled by a set of parties.
Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) W3C Last Call Working Draft 24 April 2014

This definition means that marketing by Fresh Relevance does not track users and it is totally unaffected by Do Not Track, unlike e.g. marketing by major ad networks.

The main reason is that Fresh Relevance keeps data from "distinct contexts" separate - i.e. the data about your shoppers is kept separate from the data about other companies' shoppers. This is not an accident, but a deliberate design decision from day one.

Something to bear in mind if you are sensitive about this issue.

Update on 29 December 2014:

The [W3C] is expected to distinguish between companies that have a “first party” relationship with users — consumer-facing Internet content providers and Internet service providers — and “third party” companies, which include most small advertising-technology companies.

First-party relationships would be created if the user “intends to interact” with the web company (or a service provider acting on behalf of that company). For example, logging into Facebook would count as a “user action” that would allow Facebook to track your activity “across multiple distinct contexts,” including other websites.

In contrast, companies with third-party relationships would have far more limited tracking abilities. For example, if a user visits a site that integrates an advertisement with content from other sources, the ad server would not be able to place a tracking “cookie” for marketing purposes on your device without your consent.

This dubious distinction would harm competition in the online ad market by turning “Do Not Track” into “Do Not Track for small ad companies only.” Google, Facebook and other large companies that operate both first- and third-party businesses would be able to use data they gather through their first-party relationships to compete in the third-party ad market. Smaller ad tech companies would be at a severe competitive disadvantage and could even be driven out of the market.

The Slow Death of ‘Do Not Track’ - NY Times

This would mean that Fresh Relevance is totally unaffected by Do Not Track, for basically the same reason as before, because we are "a service provider acting on behalf of that company". It's still the first party/third party distinction.

This is obviously reassuring for Fresh Relevance and our clients, but the precise way they seem to be drawing the line is controversial. Pure advertising networks are caught (of course), but major advertising networks who also act as service providers some of the time are unaffected. Even Facebook and Google may be unaffected, which would anger some privacy campaigners.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.



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