IAB UK unveils good practice principles for online behavioural advertising

Digital marketing trade body collaborates with key industry players to promote transparency, user choice and education.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has collaborated with the key players in online behavioural advertising to launch Good Practice Principles, the UK’s first self-regulatory guidelines to set good practice for companies that collect and use data for online behavioural advertising purposes.

The Good Practice Principles aim to empower consumers and give them information and choices about behavioural advertising. Supported by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent data protection regulator, the Principles constitute a common industry initiative dedicated to increasing consumer awareness and choice about the kind of advertising they receive. An ICO spokesperson said: “We are pleased that online advertising industry has come together to produce these guidelines. Given the understandable concerns of consumers about the extent to which their online activity is monitored and the importance of consumer trust, a joined-up approach to promoting transparency choice, and education makes good sense.”

Online behavioural advertising is the growing practice of delivering relevant advertising to groups of anonymous web users, based on previous internet browsing activity. New research conducted by the IAB* found that 85% of consumers would rather have free content on the internet with advertising on websites, rather than pay a premium not to have advertising. 50% of those internet users surveyed would prefer to receive advertising that is relevant to them, whereas only 9% would not.

The Good Practice Principles set out commitments to transparency, user choice and education. The Principles complement current UK data protection laws with new practices relating to the collection and use of online data. All companies that sign up to the Principles have six months to comply with three core commitments:

  • Notice – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising - such as a website publisher, ad network or technology company – must clearly inform a consumer that data is being collected and used for this purpose.
  • Choice – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide a mechanism for users to decline behavioural advertising and where applicable seek a consumer’s consent (where data protection law or specific regulatory guidance applies).
  • Education – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide consumers with clear and simple information about their use of data for this purpose and how users can decline.

A full list of companies signed-up to the Principles can be found in Notes to Editors, and signatories will have to comply within six months. During this time the IAB will develop policies and procedures – including a suitable independent element – for managing compliance and handling valid complaints from consumers.

To help consumers understand more about online behavioural advertising and the IAB Principles, signatories have launched a website www.youronlinechoices.co.uk where people can easily find out how behavioural advertising works, how it benefits them, how their privacy is protected and how they can decline this advertising if they wish. The website also includes five top tips for consumers to understand online behavioural advertising and how it benefits them. Once the first signatories have met the Principles, the portal will also include a centralised set of steps for consumers to decline behavioural advertising.

Nick Stringer, head of regulatory affairs at the IAB, said: “The online advertising industry is committed to protecting privacy and the IAB has a proven track record in self-regulation. The Good Practice Principles are a UK first, setting new standards in privacy and illustrating the proactive nature of the IAB and its members. Underpinned by our consumer information website, www.youronlinechoices.co.uk these are significant developments in offering people greater transparency and choice regarding behavioural advertising.”

Michael Steckler, managing director of AOL's Platform-A UK said: "AOL welcomes this timely initiative which shows the industry acting in a collaborative manner to help consumers to understand behavioural advertising better. Our business has an extensive track record in providing information and transparency, including our 'Mr Penguin on Privacy' online consumer campaigns in the United States and the UK. These have been used to help educate users about behavioural advertising and make sure consumers fully understand the issues and options for protecting their privacy."

Mark Howe, country sales director, Google UK, said: "Google believes in two core principles of transparency and choice when it comes to user privacy. That is why we are supportive of these new, self-regulatory principles for online advertising which will enable consumers to increase their understanding of their web surfing options."

Chris Ward, commercial director for Microsoft Advertising, said: “We take privacy issues very seriously at Microsoft and have been actively working with the IAB and its members to help shape the Good Practice Principles. This guidance builds on Microsoft’s existing policies towards privacy which today already allows consumers to opt out of personalised advertising on all of our properties”.

Kent Ertugrul, founder and chief executive of Phorm, said: “Phorm is delighted to be one of the founding signatories of the IAB’s Good Practice Principles for behavioural targeting. We believe these principles represent a world first: industry leading the way in consumer education, empowerment and choice in online advertising. Phorm believes these principles set the basis for notice and consent for behavioural targeting going forward.”

Mark Rabe, MD and VP sales at Yahoo! UK & Ireland said: “Users of Yahoo! come back to us because they value the services we provide, but just as importantly, because they trust us and our brand. We take this trust incredibly seriously and for over a decade have strived to lead the way with responsible policies like anonymising server log data after 90 days. We are proud to work with the IAB on these Good Practice Principles.”

*The study was conducted by Toluna, polling a nationally representative sample of 2000 UK citizens in February 2009.

To access the Good Practice Principles, click here.

Notes to Editors:

The companies currently signed-up to the IAB Good Practice Principles are:

Platform A
Microsoft Advertising
Specific Media
Yahoo! SARL


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