NEWS27 April 2011

Esomar and Casro give conditional support to do-not-track proposals

Data analytics North America

US— Two market research trade associations have expressed their support for recent do-not-track proposals that allow web users to opt out of online behavioural advertising, but have called for legitimate research activities to be excluded.

In a position paper submitted to the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), ahead of its web tracking and user privacy workshop, Esomar and the Council of American Survey Research Organisations (Casro) say do-not-track mechanisms should be limited in scope to advertising tracking and tracking where there is criminal or malicious intent.

Casro president Diane Bowers (pictured) wrote: “Do-not-track tools that block researchers’ ability to access internet users and measure their online behaviours could degrade the quality of the statistical information and insights that we provide and on which decision-makers in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors depend to better understand consumers, customers and citizens.”

The trade bodies give their backing to both the HTTP header approach and browser-based management of cookies, but warn that the idea of ‘filter lists’ – files containing lists of server domains that users might want to block – could have “unintended and undesirable consequences”. For instance, filter lists prepared by privacy groups for users to download might block research trackers, irrespective of whether the user in question has already agreed to participate in a tracking study.

The W3C workshop runs tomorrow and Friday. The full agenda is online here.