Peter Swire to Mediate Do Not Track Efforts

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on December 6, 2012

Professor Peter Swire has been appointed to co-chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group. Professor Swire’s primary focus will be to work out a global standard for “Do Not Track,” a computer browser setting that would allow Internet users to signal web sites, advertising networks, and data brokers that they did not want their browsing activities tracked for marketing purposes.
The Wall Street Journal characterized Professor Swire's involvement as an attempt to salvage the DNT process. Likewise, The New York Times outlined the contentious efforts of adding DNT to web browsing that Professor Swire will be mediating.
Peter Swire Testifying About Do Not Track
Professor Swire has monitored DNT closely and testified before the U.S. Senate about DNT in June. In that testimony, he said, “industry self-regulatory effort fades as the credible threat of government intervention fades.”
Professor Swire took issue with the Digital Advertising Alliance request for an exception to DNT restrictions "for market research or product development." Swire testified:
These exceptions are so open-ended that I have not been able to discern any limits on collection under them. Market research includes "research about consumers." That would seem to include keeping track of every click made by a consumer. Market research also includes analysis of "consumer preferences and behaviors." Again, if I were an FTC enforcer, I don't know what lies outside the scope of the exception. The definition of product development is similarly broad. It includes analysis of "the characteristics of a market or group of consumers." To analyze a "group of consumers" would seemingly permit collecting each click made by those consumers. Similarly, product development includes analysis of "the performance of a product, service, or feature."
Finally, Professor Swire concluded with a pro-privacy statement:
I personally would not like to have an Internet where I believed that each moment of my browsing might easily be breached and shown to the entire world. For you and your families, it would reduce the quality of the Internet if you thought that any page you visited needed to be treated like something that might be released to the public.
Peter P. Swire is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of privacy, computer security, and the law of cyberspace, and a former White House privacy official during the Clinton administration. He is the C. William O’Neill Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law of the Ohio State University and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.


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