The Do Not Track proposal seems to be causing confusion and frustration among some W3C members charged with approving it.
Once ratified, the DNT policy would require advertisers and other third parties to turn off tracking for Internet users whose browser settings specifically restrict it.
The push for DNT has already created a chasm between advertisers, who naturally want the policy to be as lean as possible, and privacy advocates, who want tough standards.
Browser makers have also been caught in the furor. Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer already include DNT settings. But Microsoft has caused waves by insisting that DNT be turned on by default in Internet Explorer 10.
The W3C is supposed to make sense of the whole mess with the goal of creating a final compliance document. Yet that goal keeps running into brick walls.
Or as ZDNet reporter Ed Bott nicely phrased it in a column yesterday, "The debate over the Do Not Track standard has officially moved beyond 'Alice in Wonderland.' These days, I'm not sure whether it's '1984' or 'Brazil.'"
One WC3 member who's also a VP at the Direct Marketing Association recently proposed a change to the policy that would add "marketing" to the list of "Permitted Uses for Third Parties and Service Providers."
The proposal quickly generated heated concerns and comments from fellow members arguing against it. Another member then chimed in to defend it, proclaiming that "marketing fuels the world" and is "as American as apple pie."
A couple of members seemed thrown by the proposal, with one person confused by the term "marketing" and questioning exactly what would be permitted.
Another person even chastised the member who proposed the policy, saying: "I appreciate that the DAA (Digital Advertising Association) has done a lot of work in a somewhat related area to the (Working Group's) efforts. However, raising issues that you know quite well will not be adopted is not an effective way to contribute to this process."
The whole process itself seems to tiring out at least one member, who pointed to frustration over the debate over Microsoft's push to enable DNT by default in IE 10:
Given the pathetic way that the Tracking Protection working group members have addressed this issue, both for and against the behavior of IE 10.0, I have lost any energy I once had for defending Mozilla's original definition. It was the only issue of substance that the WG (Working Group) had managed to record consensus, in over a year of deliberation.
The W3C Working Group is made of up members from worlds of advertising, marketing, and technology. So some dissension and disagreement among the ranks is to be expected. But as the debate over online privacy continues to rage on, the W3C doesn't seem to be much closer in formulating a DNT policy than it was a year ago.