OBA Self-Regulatory Initiative Gets Boost from Yahoo! & Google

Back in 2009, Legal Bytes reported that a coalition of the major players in the online advertising industry had gotten together and issued self-regulatory principles concerning online behavioral advertising (Advertising Industry Collaboration Releases Self-Regulatory Online Behavioral Advertising Principles). These principles were and remain intended to create an industry self-policing mechanism that provides, among other things, discipline and disclosures to consumers concerning the use of personal information.

Amidst much activity and debate – the good, the bad and the ugly – the industry has moved forward, creating a Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) (and website), and enlisting the aid of the Council of Better Business Bureaus to develop and implement an enforcement process, much like the process that has worked quite successfully in traditional advertising for well more than 30 years! By the way, for the record, I refer to online behavioral advertising (OBA) as “digital behavioral advertising” or “DBA,” since excluding mobile and wireless would be a mistake, and “online” conjures up images of “wired.”

In a major show of support for the self-regulatory initiative, both Google and Yahoo! have announced they will begin using the “forward i” icon (shown below), promulgated by the DAA for its behavioral advertising.

Aside from the obvious boost to the industry’s self-regulatory efforts, the uniformity will help lessen the likelihood of consumer confusions regarding industry practices across the web. The DAA icon will also serve as a live link, taking users to user-based tools that a consumer can use to modify the behavioral and identified interest categories advertisers use to serve targeted advertising. The tools would also enable a consumer to opt out of receiving such advertising. Yahoo! actually will prevent partner sites from collecting consumer data if a consumer opts out, while Google will disable interest-based cookies and remove demographic and interest-related information from its Chrome browser when a consumer opts out.

Neither the industry’s self-regulatory program, nor the consumer tools available through the DAA’s program, were ever intended to stop data tracking (as you probably know, “do not track” is getting lots of play in Congress and the media lately). Microsoft and Mozilla have separately introduced modifications to their IE and Firefox browsers (i.e., HTTP header settings) that allow consumers to alter the settings and alert advertisers that they have opted out of tracking; although the settings do not block tracking per se, they will simply serve as notice to the companies that may be tracking user data of that consumer’s preference.

As always, if you need guidance for your advertising and marketing efforts or privacy and data protection from legal representatives who deal with these issues every day, feel free to call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.