On April 24, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, convened a committee hearing titled “A Status Update on the Development of Voluntary Do-Not-Track Standards” to examine the steps industry stakeholders have taken in relation to an agreement to recognize a browser-based choice mechanism with respect to the collection and use of Web viewing data.
The Committee heard from several witnesses, including Mr. Lou Mastria, Managing Director of the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”), who testified about the industry’s self-regulatory program for providing consumer choice and transparency for online data collection. Mr. Mastria discussed five attributes of the DAA program that he stated are frequently misrepresented by the program’s critics. First, he described how, from its launch, the DAA has offered a simple, easy-to-use, one-button choice mechanism that works regardless of the type of browser used. Second, Mr. Mastria discussed how the DAA Principles apply to the collection of all Web viewing data across unrelated sites, not just data collected for advertising purposes. Third, he explained that the DAA offers users persistent choice, which continues to work even when users delete their cookies. Fourth, he noted that the DAA Principles restrict both the collection and use of data. Fifth, Mr. Mastria told the Committee that the DAA’s enforcement applies to all marketplace participants, regardless of whether they have enrolled in the program.
As described by Mr. Mastria, and discussed by the members of the Senate Committee, the DAA program was praised at a White House event in 2012, at which the DAA announced an agreement to honor the DAA Self-Regulatory Principles through a browser signal when consumers both (1) receive meaningful information about the effect of that choice, and (2) affirmatively make that choice themselves. Mr. Mastria explained that certain browsers shortcircuited this agreement by implementing browser-based choice in ways contrary to the consensus standard reached with the White House, Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Commerce.