A File Format for the Discoverable Use of Analytics
draft-ring-analyticstxt-01

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Authors Frederik Ring  , Hendrik Niefeld 
Last updated 2021-06-18
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Network Working Group                                            F. Ring
Internet-Draft                                                H. Niefeld
Intended status: Informational                                     Offen
Expires: 20 December 2021                                   18 June 2021

          A File Format for the Discoverable Use of Analytics
                       draft-ring-analyticstxt-01

Abstract

   Internet privacy has become an important feature for users of
   websites and services.  This document proposes a way for websites and
   services to declare and disclose their usage of analytics and
   tracking software. analytics.txt aims to be an elaborate file format
   that describes the privacy related characteristics of analytics and
   tracking software in a non-biased way.  An analytics.txt file is
   understandable for a non-technical audience, while also useful for
   the automated consumption by tools and software.

Discussion Venues

   This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at
   https://github.com/offen/analyticstxt.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 20 December 2021.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (https://trustee.ietf.org/
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text
   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Motivation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.2.  Scope of this proposal  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.3.  Definition of the term "analytics" in the scope of this
           document  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Conventions and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.1.  Comments  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.2.  Line Separators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.3.  Extensibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.4.  Field Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.4.1.  Author  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.4.2.  Collects  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.4.3.  Stores  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       3.4.4.  Uses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       3.4.5.  Allows  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       3.4.6.  Retains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       3.4.7.  Honors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       3.4.8.  Tracks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       3.4.9.  Varies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.4.10. Shares  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.4.11. Implements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       3.4.12. Deploys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     3.5.  Examples of analytics.txt files . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
       3.5.1.  A site using analytics  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
       3.5.2.  Specifying required fields only . . . . . . . . . . .  13
       3.5.3.  A site not using any analytics  . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   4.  Location of the analytics.txt file  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.1.  Alternatives  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.1.1.  link Tag  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.1.2.  HTTP Header . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.2.  Precedence  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.3.  Scope of a file . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     5.1.  Incorrect or stale information  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     5.2.  Spam  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     5.3.  Multi-user environments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15

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   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     6.1.  Well-Known URIs registry  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17

1.  Introduction

1.1.  Motivation

   User tracking and the utilization of analytics software on websites
   has become a widely employed routine, visibly and invisibly affecting
   the way the user facing internet works and behaves.  Yet, there is no
   well-defined way of accessing information about what software is
   being used and what kind of data it is collecting in a standardized
   way.  Legislation can only ever cover a subset of the range of
   existing technological implementations, creating incentives for
   software to find workarounds, thus allowing them to hide their
   presence from users.  Automated audits are limited to aspects that
   are possible to detect in clients, but cannot disclose other
   important implementation details.

1.2.  Scope of this proposal

   This document defines a way to specify the privacy related
   characteristics of analytics and tracking software.  We aim for this
   information to be consumable both by humans as well as software.  For
   example, search engines or browser extensions could make use of the
   provided data and display information to users, but it should also be
   simple enough to serve as information for inquiring users as is.

   The file "analytics.txt" is not intended to replace the requirement
   for complying with existing regulations, but supposed to give
   insights beyond the scope of these regulations.

1.3.  Definition of the term "analytics" in the scope of this document

   Analytics as referred to in this document involves the collection of
   usage statistics in order to generate reports that can help the
   providers of websites and services to better understand and optimize
   their services towards real world user behavior.  This can also
   include measuring different content against different groups of
   users.  Analytics or user tracking as referred to in this document
   does not refer to the identification of users in order to deliver
   customized advertising or content across websites of any kind.

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2.  Conventions and Definitions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   The term "implementors" refers to the providers of services and
   websites that wish to use an analytics.txt file.

3.  Specification

   This document defines a text file format that can be used by
   implementors to signal information about their usage of analytics
   software to both users and software.

   By convention, this file is called "analytics.txt".  Its location and
   scope are described in Section 4.

   This text file contains multiple fields with different values.  A
   field contains a "name" which is the first part of a field all the
   way up to the colon (for example: "Author:") and follows the syntax
   defined for "field-name" in section 3.6.8 of [RFC5322].  Field names
   are case-insensitive (as per section 2.3 of [RFC5234]).  The "value"
   comes after the field name and follows the syntax defined for
   "unstructured" in section 3.2.5 of [RFC5322].  The file MAY also
   contain blank lines and comments.

   A field MUST always consist of a name and a value (for example:
   "Author: Jane Doe jane.doe@example.com
   (mailto:jane.doe@example.com)").  Each field MUST appear on its own
   line.  Unless specified otherwise by the field definition, multiple
   values MUST be chained together for a single field (for example:
   "Implements: gdpr, ccpa") using the "," character (%x2c).  A field
   MAY NOT appear multiple times.

   Implementors SHOULD aim for authoring an analytics.txt file that is
   easy to understand by non-technical audiences.

3.1.  Comments

   Any line beginning with the "#" (%x23) symbol MUST be interpreted as
   a comment.  The content of the comment may contain any ASCII or
   Unicode characters in the %x21-7E and %x80-FFFFF ranges plus the tab
   (%x09) and space (%x20) characters.

   Example:

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   # This is a comment

   Implementors SHOULD make deliberate use of comments to make an
   analytics.txt file more accessible for non-technical audiences.

3.2.  Line Separators

   Every line MUST end either with a carriage return and line feed
   characters (CRLF / %x0D %x0A) or just a line feed character (LF /
   %x0A).

3.3.  Extensibility

   Like many other formats and protocols, this format may need to be
   extended over time to fit the ever-changing landscape of the
   Internet.  Special attention is required for defining the allowed
   values in enumerations to ensure they are a. extendable and b. do not
   become obsolete too quickly.

3.4.  Field Definitions

   Field names are case-insensitive, yet implementors SHOULD use the
   capitalized style used in this document for consistency.

   Field values are case-insensitive.  Unless otherwise specified,
   implementors MUST refer to the allowed values for a field given by
   the specification.

3.4.1.  Author

   This REQUIRED field holds an OPTIONAL display name and a REQUIRED
   email address ("name-addr") as per section 3.4 of [RFC5322] providing
   information about a person or entity responsible for maintaining the
   contents of the file.  The field MUST contain a valid email address
   which shall be used for inquiries about the correctness and additions
   to the data provided in the file.

3.4.1.1.  Example

   Author: Jane Doe <jane.doe@example.com>

3.4.2.  Collects

   This REQUIRED multi-value field indicates which potentially privacy
   relevant user specific data is being collected or used in session
   identification or other procedures.  These values MUST also be
   specified if a property is not persisted as-is, but stored or
   processed in a hashed and/or combined form.

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3.4.2.1.  Allowed values

3.4.2.1.1.  none

   No analytics data is collected at all.  This value MUST NOT be used
   in conjunction with other values.

3.4.2.1.2.  url

   The URL of a visit, including its path, is collected and used.  This
   MUST also be specified in case URLs are stripped of certain
   parameters or pseudonymized before being stored.

3.4.2.1.3.  ip-address

   The request IP address is being used.

3.4.2.1.4.  geo-location

   Geographic location of users is determined and used.  This could for
   example be derived from the request IP, or from using browser APIs.

3.4.2.1.5.  user-agent

   Information about the utilized User Agent is being collected.

3.4.2.1.6.  fingerprint

   Browser Fingerprinting is used.  Such mechanisms usually try to
   compute a unique identifier from properties of the host Operating
   System, allowing them to re-identify users without having to persist
   an identifier.

3.4.2.1.7.  device-type

   The user's device type (e.g. mobile / tablet / desktop) is being
   determined and collected.

3.4.2.1.8.  referrer

   The Referrer of a visit is collected and used.  This MUST also be
   specified if the referrer value is stripped of potential path
   fragments.

3.4.2.1.9.  visit-duration

   The duration of a visit, either on page- or on session-level is
   measured and used.

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3.4.2.1.10.  custom-events

   Custom events like conversion goals are defined and used.  This MAY
   be left out in case the analytics software in use offers such
   functionality, but implementors chose not to use the feature.

3.4.2.1.11.  session-recording

   Detailed behavior like mouse movement and scrolling is recorded and
   can possibly be played back when analyzing the analytics data.

3.4.2.2.  Example

   Collects: url, device-type, referrer

3.4.3.  Stores

   This field is REQUIRED unless the only value of the Collects field as
   per Section 3.4.2 is none.  The multi-value field indicates whether
   data is persisted on the client during the collection of analytics
   data and declares the browser features used for doing so.  In case no
   data is being persisted at all, the value none MUST be used as the
   single entry for this field.

3.4.3.1.  Allowed values

3.4.3.1.1.  none

   No data is persisted on the client during the collection of usage
   data.  This value MUST NOT be used in conjunction with other values.

3.4.3.1.2.  first-party-cookies

   First party cookies are in use.  There is no differentiation between
   session or persistent cookies, just like HTTP and JavaScript cookies
   are considered equal.

3.4.3.1.3.  third-party-cookies

   Third party cookies are in use.  There is no differentiation between
   session or persistent cookies, just like HTTP and JavaScript cookies
   are considered equal.

3.4.3.1.4.  local-storage

   Data is persisted on the client using non-cookie JavaScript APIs like
   "localStorage", "sessionStorage", "WebSQL" or "IndexedDB"

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3.4.3.1.5.  cache

   The analytics software leverages browser caches to store identifiers.
   For example, ETag headers can be used to identify users based on
   their browser caches' contents.  This value is not required in case
   the analytics software sends static resources with cache headers, but
   does not make use of the request headers on subsequent requests.

3.4.3.2.  Example

   Stores: first-party-cookies, local-storage

3.4.4.  Uses

   This field is REQUIRED unless the only value of the Collects field
   Section 3.4.2 is none.  The multi-value field indicates the technical
   implementation details for how analytics data is being collected.

3.4.4.1.  Allowed values

3.4.4.1.1.  javascript

   A client-side script is used to collect data.

3.4.4.1.2.  pixel

   A static resource - typically a pixel - transferred via HTTP is being
   used to collect data through the request parameters.

3.4.4.1.3.  server-side

   Collection of usage data is happening on the server side at
   application layer.

3.4.4.1.4.  logs

   Usage data is being calculated from server log files.

3.4.4.1.5.  other

   Other techniques that are not described in this section are in use.

3.4.4.2.  Example

   Uses: script

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3.4.5.  Allows

   This field is REQUIRED unless the only value of the Collects field
   Section 3.4.2 is none.  The multi-value field discloses information
   about whether user consent is being acquired before collecting
   analytics data, and if it is possible for users to opt out of the
   collection of usage data.

3.4.5.1.  Allowed values

3.4.5.1.1.  none

   The software does not define a way for users to opt in or opt out of
   the collection of usage data.  This value also applies to scenarios
   where only a subset of data is collected by default and could be
   extended by opting in.  This value MUST NOT be used in conjunction
   with other values.

3.4.5.1.2.  opt-in

   No usage data is collected before users have given their consent.

3.4.5.1.3.  opt-out

   Users can opt out of collection of usage data using a dedicated
   feature tailored towards the user audience.  This value is only
   applicable in case no data at all is collected after having opted
   out.

3.4.5.2.  Example

   Allows: opt-out

3.4.6.  Retains

   This field is REQUIRED unless the only value of the Collects field
   Section 3.4.2 is none.  The single-value field indicates the duration
   for which the analytics data is being stored before being deleted.
   This duration MUST also cover periods where data might transition to
   be stored in aggregated form only.  The value is either a duration as
   defined in [RFC3339] or the token "perpetual" in case data is
   retained without expiring it at some point.  Implementors SHOULD add
   a comment providing a human readable value to this field.

3.4.6.1.  Example

   # Data is retained for twelve months
   Retains: P12M

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3.4.7.  Honors

   This OPTIONAL, RECOMMENDED multi-value field indicates which browser
   level privacy controls are being honored when collecting data.

3.4.7.1.  Allowed values

3.4.7.1.1.  none

   Data is collected even if any of the browser settings listed below
   are in use.  This value MUST NOT be used in conjunction with other
   values.

3.4.7.1.2.  do-not-track

   User-Agents that have DoNotTrack [DNT] enabled will be excluded from
   the collection of analytics data.

3.4.7.1.3.  global-privacy-control

   User agents that have Global Privacy Control [GPC] enabled will be
   excluded from the collection of analytics data.

3.4.7.2.  Example

   Honors: do-not-track, global-privacy-control

3.4.8.  Tracks

   This OPTIONAL, RECOMMENDED multi-value field indicates the coverage
   in session and user lifecycle tracking.

3.4.8.1.  Allowed values

3.4.8.1.1.  none

   Each event that is collected is anonymous.  There is no way to
   connect and group multiple pageviews by user or similar.  This value
   MUST NOT be used in conjunction with other values.

3.4.8.1.2.  sessions

   Metrics that source from a single browser session can be grouped and
   distinguished as such.

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3.4.8.1.3.  users

   Users can be identified across multiple browser sessions.

3.4.8.2.  Example

   Tracks: sessions, users

3.4.9.  Varies

   This OPTIONAL, RECOMMENDED single-value field indicates the usage of
   content experiments like A/B testing.  It MUST contain a single value
   only.

3.4.9.1.  Allowed values

3.4.9.1.1.  none

   All users are served the same content without any changes.  This
   value MUST NOT be used in conjunction with other values.

3.4.9.1.2.  random

   Content experiments are performed by grouping users randomly into
   buckets and serving them different content.

3.4.9.1.3.  geographic

   Content experiments are performed by targeting user based on their
   geographic location.

3.4.9.1.4.  behavioral

   Content experiments are performed by grouping users into buckets
   based on their behavior and serving them different content.

3.4.9.2.  Example

   Varies: random

3.4.10.  Shares

   This OPTIONAL, RECOMMENDED multi-value field indicates whether data
   is shared with select users, the general public or third parties.

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3.4.10.1.  Allowed values

3.4.10.1.1.  none

   The data collected is not shared with any party unless directly
   affiliated with the implementor, e.g. employees.

3.4.10.1.2.  per-user

   Users can access the usage data that is associated with them in a
   non-aggregated way, isolating all data that is specific to their
   current means of re-identification.

3.4.10.1.3.  general-public

   Usage statistics for the site or service are available to the general
   public.

3.4.10.1.4.  third-party

   Data is being shared non-publicly with third parties.  This MUST also
   be specified when datasets are aggregated or pseudonymized
   beforehand.

3.4.10.2.  Example

   Shares: general-public

3.4.11.  Implements

   This OPTIONAL field indicates conformance with existing regulations
   and legislation.  Values for this field SHOULD use all lowercase
   tokens with whitespace being replaced by the dash character (%x2d).
   This field SHOULD only be added if it makes the setup described by
   the file easier to understand for human users.

   Example values are:

   *  gdpr

   *  ccpa

3.4.11.1.  Example

   Implements: gdpr, ccpa

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3.4.12.  Deploys

   This OPTIONAL field indicates which software is being used for
   collecting analytics.  Values for this field SHOULD use all lowercase
   tokens with whitespace being replaced by the dash character (%x2d).
   This field SHOULD only be added if it makes the setup described by
   the file easier to understand for human users.

   Example values are:

   *  google-analytics

   *  plausible

   *  hotjar

   *  matomo

3.4.12.1.  Example

   Deploys: google-analytics, hotjar

3.5.  Examples of analytics.txt files

3.5.1.  A site using analytics

   # analytics.txt file for www.example.com
   Author: Jane Doe <doe@example.com>

   Collects: url, referrer, device-type
   Stores: first-party-cookies, local-storage
   # Usage data is encrypted end-to-end
   Uses: javascript
   # Users can also delete their usage data only without opting out
   Allows: opt-in, opt-out
   # Data is retained for 6 months
   Retains: P6M

   # Optional fields
   Honors: none
   Tracks: sessions, users
   Varies: none
   Shares: per-user
   Implements: gdpr

3.5.2.  Specifying required fields only

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Author: John Doe <doe@example.com>
Collects: url, ip-address, geo-location, user-agent, referrer, device-type, custom-events
Stores: none
Uses: javascript
Allows: none
Retains: perpetual

3.5.3.  A site not using any analytics

   # analytics.txt file for www.example.com
   Author: Jane Doe <doe@example.com>
   Collects: none

4.  Location of the analytics.txt file

   By default, an analytics.txt file SHOULD be placed in the ".well-
   known" path as per [RFC8615] of a domain name or IP address.

4.1.  Alternatives

   In case implementors are unable to meet this requirement, other
   options are available.

4.1.1.  link Tag

   Implementors MAY signal the location of an analytics.txt file in the
   context of a HTML document using a link element of rel "analytics"

   Example:

<link rel="analytics" href="https://example.com/resources/analytics.txt">

4.1.2.  HTTP Header

   Implementors MAY send an HTTP header of "X-Analytics-Txt" with a
   response, sending the URI of the applicable file.

   Example:

   X-Analytics-Txt: https://example.com/resources/analytics.txt

4.2.  Precedence

   In case multiple of these signals are being used, the precedence
   taken is:

   1.  X-Analytics-Txt Header

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   2.  link element

   3.  ".well-known" location

4.3.  Scope of a file

   An analytics.txt file located in the ".well-known" location MUST only
   apply to the domain or IP address of the URI used to retrieve it, and
   SHALL NOT apply to any of its subdomains or parent domains.  If the
   location is signaled using the HTTP Header or in the document markup
   itself, its scope SHALL be limited to the requested resource only.

   If distributed in non-standard locations, an analytics.txt file MAY
   also apply to products and services provided by the organization
   publishing the file (e.g. desktop or mobile applications) and which
   cannot be mapped to a domain name or IP address.  In such cases,
   implementors MUST add sufficient commentary describing the applicable
   scope.

5.  Security Considerations

5.1.  Incorrect or stale information

   If information given in an "analytics.txt" file is incorrect or not
   kept up to date, this can result in usage of services under wrong
   assumptions, thus exposing users to possibly unwanted data collection
   and handling.  Not having an "analytics.txt" file may be preferable
   to having incorrect or stale information in this file.  This
   guideline also applies to field level: in case of ambiguities or
   uncertainties, it's recommended to omit a field or a value rather
   than providing incorrect information.  Implementors MUST use the
   "Author" field (see Section 3.4.1) to allow inquiries about the
   correctness of the given information.

5.2.  Spam

   Implementors should be aware that disclosing mandatory author
   information as per Section 3.4.1 in such a file exposes them to
   possible Spam schemes or spurious requests.

5.3.  Multi-user environments

   In multi-user / multi-tenant environments, it may possible for a
   single user to take over the location of the "/.well-known/
   analytics.txt" file which would also apply to others.  Organizations
   should ensure the ".well-known" location is properly protected.
   Implementors can instead use other locations as per Section 4 in such
   scenarios.

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6.  IANA Considerations

6.1.  Well-Known URIs registry

   The "Well-Known URIs" registry should be updated with the following
   additional values (using the template from [RFC8615]):

   URI suffix: analytics.txt

   Specification document(s): this document

   Status: permanent

7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,
              <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC2119>.

   [RFC3339]  Klyne, G. and C. Newman, "Date and Time on the Internet:
              Timestamps", RFC 3339, DOI 10.17487/RFC3339, July 2002,
              <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC3339>.

   [RFC5322]  Resnick, P., Ed., "Internet Message Format", RFC 5322,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5322, October 2008,
              <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC5322>.

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC8174>.

   [RFC8615]  Nottingham, M., "Well-Known Uniform Resource Identifiers
              (URIs)", RFC 8615, DOI 10.17487/RFC8615, May 2019,
              <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC8615>.

7.2.  Informative References

   [DNT]      Fielding, R.T. and D. Singer, "Tracking Preference
              Expression (DNT)", n.d.,
              <https://www.w3.org/TR/tracking-dnt/>.

   [GPC]      Berjon, R., Zimmeck, S., Soltani, A., Harbage, D., and P.
              Snyder, "Global Privacy Control (GPC)", n.d.,
              <https://globalprivacycontrol.github.io/gpc-spec/>.

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   [RFC5234]  Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, January 2008,
              <https://doi.org/10.17487/RFC5234>.

Authors' Addresses

   Frederik Ring
   Offen

   Email: frederik.ring@gmail.com

   Hendrik Niefeld
   Offen

   Email: hello@niefeld.com

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