NEWS4 December 2009

IAB campaign addresses ad targeting privacy fears

North America Privacy

US— The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has launched an information campaign to raise awareness of online ad targeting and respond to internet users’ concerns.

The campaign includes a series of online ads devised by WPP agency Schematic, featuring the slogan “Advertising is creepy!” When the viewer rolls the mouse over the ad, a new screen appears beginning with the words “Or at least that’s what you might think”. When clicked, the ads link to the IAB’s Privacy Matters website, which gives more information on how behavioural targeting works and how to protect your privacy online (including a link to the Network Advertising Initiative’s opt-out page).

The IAB’s president and CEO Randall Rothenberg said: “The ‘Privacy Matters’ campaign and website is an example of how the IAB is taking a leadership role in communicating with consumers in plain English about how to manage their privacy online and providing them with the resources to do it.”

The IAB is aiming for one billion ad impressions, enough “to reach nearly every American online”.

Fears about privacy have led lawmakers in the US to consider stricter regulation of behavioural targeting, putting pressure on the ad industry to allay public concern about the practice and develop a more robust self-regulatory system. The media partners and agencies involved in the IAB’s campaign have donated their time and resources for free, and the bureau is continuing to appeal for donations of inventory. Publishers carrying the ads include Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

The ‘Privacy Matters’ site sets out in simple terms how ads are targeted using cookies, IP addresses and personal data submitted through websites. It takes the view that an IP address does not constitute personally identifiable information because it “reveals nothing personal about you to marketers and websites”, although privacy campaigners have claimed that a unique IP address can be used to identify an individual, and to gather details about them by building a profile of their activity.

In Germany, data protection authorities ruled recently that an IP address is personally identifiable information, and must not be used for tracking purposes without the consent of the person being tracked.