NEWS3 July 2009

Ad industry reacts to behavioural targeting outcry

North America

US— Advertising industry bodies have come up with a seven-point plan to regain consumer trust and head off the threat of potentially restrictive new privacy laws following the outcry over behavioural targeting practices.

The self-regulatory programme unveiled yesterday aims to better educate web users about what data is collected about their online activities, how it is gathered and used, and to make it easier for them to opt-out of systems that serve advertising to them based on their browsing histories.

It also requires internet service providers to obtain prior consent from their customers before engaging in online behavioural advertising – an unsurprisingly stringent demand, given that it was the ISP-level tracking and targeting offered by companies such as the now-defunct NebuAd that concerned privacy advocates the most.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau began working on the behavioural advertising principles earlier this year. They plan to implement the programme at the start of next year.

Publication of the principles this week was welcomed by Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour of the Federal Trade Commission, whose chairman Jon Leibowitz recently warned the ad industry “to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous self-regulation” or risk missing “the last chance” to show that it can work.

Jones Harbour said: “I commend these organisations for taking this important first step. I am hopeful that successful implementation will follow.”