Advertising to Interest Groups without tracking

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Precisely. There is a debate to be had and it is happening at the W3C Improving Web Advertising Business Group already.

Creating new groups which duplicate existing work and groups is a classic case of “the bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy”. Only people from organisations with the resources and time, such as browser vendors, are realistically able to participate. This then skews the outcome towards those narrow set of stakeholders to the detriment of all others.

Resolving the existing known issues associated with the proposal must precede any further work which will skew the outcome.

People who trust a publisher to provide them free content in return for viewing advertising do. That is the value exchange.

Users who learn that their private information is being sold and that they are being tracked are horrified by this. This is not a value exchange: It’s an abuse of people’s trust and consent without their knowledge - why browsers are cracking down on these practices.

There are laws created to sanction bad actors who perform bad acts.

The laws are insufficient due to corruption of the political process by special interests (see the US, for instance). This is why browsers and other folks are having to intervene.

Is there a specification or implementation that provides this level of verification across the supply chain?

Yes. Why most browsers are open source and allow users to modify preferences to protect themselves. See also Mozilla’s missions statement, and the track protection work done by browser vendors.

I apologize if someone gave you the impression the BGs can gate-keep what other folks are working on. That’s not the case.

If they were informed and consented then they participated in a value exchange which funded journalism and other services. Journalism is essential to a functioning democracy. Those people would be happy. I assert they are the majority, and their requirement is to ensure their consent and trust choices are respected.

Is that your personal opinion or the position of Mozilla?

The issue is one of monitoring the supply chain and reporting bad acts and bad actors so that they can be sanctioned by the laws that already exist or may exist in the future. I’m unaware of any work being done by browser vendors or the W3C to certify the supply chain and report compliance to the person using the browser or regulators. As a newbie I may have missed the group working on this problem.

@michaelkleber, can you email me at marcos at marcosc.com and I can help you move your repo over. Alternatively, we can spin up a new repository for you. Let us know how you would like to proceed.

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Thank you. I understand that. How do we prevent multiple groups working on the same thing resulting in more complexity and difficulty for those trying to follow and contribute? This is a particularly acute problem for participants from smaller organisations.

How should we ensure that a proposal, no matter how it’s implemented in practice, provides an improvement to the web and all it’s stakeholders? A great deal of additional work is generated if a proposal is developed, only to find that it would never have achieved an improvement.

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You don’t need to follow everything. This is just an incubation… see it as a space/community that is experimenting.

When Google announced an “experiment” Criteo’s share price dropped 15.9%. Now more than ever participants need to follow “everything”. A subtle change may have significant consequences to different stakeholders. The less “everything” there is the better the engagement and eventual outcome.

Perhaps a pause is needed to enable the W3C Advisory Board to provide their advice?

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As I am a member of the W3C Advisory Board, are you asking for the AB to review this to provide an opinion? I am happy to ask them to do so, or any W3C Member can create an issue at https://github.com/w3c/ab-memberonly/issues. Feel free to email me, cwilso at google, if you’d like me to file it instead.

I should preface this with: I’m a member of the AB, but not speaking for them; I’m Google’s AC rep, but not (in this instance) speaking for Google in regards to the actual proposals, as Michael is better informed. I’m a co-chair and founder of the WICG, and do have some role in speaking there, along with Marcos, Yoav and Travis.

The point of incubations is to let multiple potential avenues be explored, in the open. There have been incubations that “compete” before (conversion metrics comes to mind), there will be in the future; that’s by design. Incubations do not represent the consensus of the entire community. Community Groups and Business Groups both are not suited for representing such, as they are not do not function under the W3C consensus Process. Any incubation developed here would be expected to move to a Working Group in order to represent the consensus of the W3C (which would represent a blend of user, advertiser, developer and vendor needs).

I would point out that Michael’s expressed goal in bringing this here was to bring this area to the attention of more than just the membership of the Web Advertising BG - not to remove it from the view or engagement of the WABG. This work should eventually move into an (as yet uncreated) WG at the W3C, I would expect, and would have to do so even if the WABG had reached a complete consensus among themselves on a precise proposal.

Thank you all. I’d like to wait a bit and give Criteo folks a chance to speak up here also — my summary is already out of date, since they updated SPARROW with a new Reporting section earlier today.

@marcosc and other chairs: If the SPARROW folks also want to advance the two proposals together, I guess the obvious mechanism is to move them both into WICG independently, and then pick one as the base to update with consensus decisions. Is there anything cleverer, or any reason to look for such?

If we’re to build a more trustworthy and sustainable web, which meets all the values and goals of the W3C, we need to define what success looks like. That includes questioning and validating the anti-tracking stances of browsers which might work against the goals of an open web for all.

The anti-tracking stances of browsers are up to those browsers, and of course anything may change. But at this point I think there is considerable evidence that lots of ads are going to be shown in environments where tracking isn’t an option, for whatever reason — browser efforts, regulatory environment, user consent response, etc.

The point of this proposal is to further the state of what’s possible even if tracking individuals isn’t available. @jwrosewell I would think that a worthwhile goal, no matter what your personal opinion on browser privacy policies.

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Whilst some contributors may have the time and mandate from their employers to incumbate many parallel experiments to address the same problem, most participants do not. Establishing a common view of “success” and then evaluating competing early stage proposals, eliminating those that are weaker, will help everyone focus and use their time efficiently. This will expedite progress.

There is already sufficient information available about multiple proposals to perform an assessment of the likely impact on multiple stakeholders. As an example; in the case of TURTLEDOVE and SPARROW a major difference relates to the role of “gatekeepers” and client versus server side implementation. These proposals do not need to be developed further to identify and resolve these major differences.

I maintain that the esablished norms of governance require such a process to be undertaken. I’m struggling to understand why others think this established practice does not apply in this instance.

I would welcome @michaelkleber, @marcosc and others explaining the method they would use to evaluate competing proposals. Many other W3C participants have already provided a proposal in the form of the success criteria document being drafted within the W3C Improving Web Advertising Business Group. The feedback recieved on the most recent meeting is being incorporated into the next revision of the document for presentation next week. I hope it will better reflect the needs of browser vendors. If you can provide your methods here I will be able to consider incorporating them ahead of the next meeting.

@cwilso Thank you.This thread exposes a number of issues which I would like the W3C AB to consider holistically. I observe in the minutes of the May AB meetings some of these topics were discussed but not resolved. I believe the AB are seeking the opinion and viewpoint of a diverse set of members. I will prepare a concise summary of the issues for the AB to consider, post a duplicate here, and otherwise progress as you suggest.

On a different matter I’ve observed four of my comments have been flagged. Having read the community guidelines I’m failing to find any cause and therefore have no remedy available to me. Could you advise on the explicit reason or remove the flag?

The flagging was automatic (new users that post a lot of similar links are flagged by the system). I believe it is now resolved.

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Is there anything cleverer, or any reason to look for such?

Moving both sounds fine to me.

Hi,

SPARROW contributor here.

We’re happy to move forward with WICG as long as the criteria to reach consensus are explicitly shared and acknowledge by all parties and reflect the interest of the open web ecosystem and their users.

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Curious meta question: is Brave involved with this? I feel they would definitely at least be interested, as this is basically their entire business model.

Brave’s Pete Snyder expressed interest during this past week’s meeting of the W3C Privacy Community Group, noting the similarity to some of their work (minutes). Also I’ve had some conversations with ex-Braver Tom Lowenthal about variations of the idea here.

But they haven’t had direct involvement with this particular proposal; Brave is not active in the Web Advertising Business Group, which this grew out of.

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@ablanchard1138 The W3C’s process around consensus and dissent is described here: https://www.w3.org/2019/Process-20190301/#Consensus.

The WICG charter says a little more on the subject, here: https://wicg.github.io/admin/charter.html#decision. The charter goes so far as to consider producing two different proposals, if substantial disagreement remains. But since we’re coming in with two different ideas which we hope to unify, that’s obviously not the goal!

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We’re happy to have SPARROW moved to the WICG, get feedback from and have discussions with the community.

Lionel for Criteo