Small Ad Networks May Suffer from “Do Not Track” Proposals

The Worldwide Web Consortium and the Digital Advertising Alliance have been working on separate efforts to draft rules that would allow Internet users to browse without being tracked by online marketing companies. However, the proposals from both groups will still allow Google or Facebook to track consumers on their own sites or properties such as Gmail or any site with a Facebook “Like” button. Small ad networks say the new proposals will undercut their business.

Internet users would theoretically be able to use “Do Not Track” buttons in Web browsers to tell marketers that they do not want their data to be collected. However, the current “Do Not Track” buttons only send that message to online-advertising companies. There are no rules that the advertising networks must comply. Yahoo, for example, announced last month that it would ignore “Do Not Track” alerts from users.

Small ad networks, in particular, have raised concerns about the proposals because their business model is based on tracking Internet users across multiple sites unaffiliated with ad giants like Google or Facebook. Rocket Fuel, Quantcast and Conversant use that kind of data to build profiles of users’ interests.

“The third-party ad-tech community is being railroaded,” Alan Chapell, an attorney for smaller ad-technology firms, said in The Wall Street Journal.

On the other hand, supporters believe that the new proposals are simply trying to protect privacy. Justin Brookman of the Center for Democracy and Technology, one of three chairmen of the W3C’s Do Not Track working group, explained that the proposals would limit tracking to those companies that Internet users interact with directly, rather than unknown smaller third-party ad networks.

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