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Consumer Data Privacy 

Privacy is a complex policy issue with a multitude of consumer expectations. These expectations can depend, variously, on age, gender, geography, community, social dynamics and Internet familiarity –as well as on established law and regulation.

In the advertising context, consumer data is a critical component in the delivery of campaigns, messages and offers that are targeted appropriately to consumers’ interests. Advertisers consistently seek to reach consumers effectively while respecting their privacy; they depend on consumer data to ensure relevance and interest and avoid annoyance and clutter. Consumer online data is further necessary for ad agencies and ad service providers to verify ad delivery and audience response as well as validate financial reporting.

Interest-based advertising (often referred to as “online behavioral advertising” or “OBA”) is one such example where ads and offers are delivered based upon interests that have been inferred from consumers’ Web viewing data. Increasingly, this kind of targeted advertising has become the economic foundation upon which so many innovative Websites, Internet services and mobile applications are built. Many small online businesses (“long-tail” publishers) rely heavily on interest-based advertising for their revenue.

The predominantly free content and services that consumers enjoy and expect from the Internet today are subsidized mostly or entirely by online advertising. Yet misunderstanding of legitimate online data use for advertising purposes has resulted in increased consumer anxiety over privacy protection. And regulators, advocates and policy makers have seized upon the issue.

The 4A’s believes strongly that legislation is ill-equipped to address consumer privacy concerns in such a fast-developing environment as the Internet. Since 2009, we have served as a founding member of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) a consortium of national advertising and marketing trade associations committed to ensuring consumer privacy protection in interest-based advertising:

• The DAA Self-regulatory Program remains the industry standard framework for consumers to exercise privacy choice. Millions of consumers have participated in this program through the ubiquitous “Ad Choices” icon that appears in interest-based ads all across the Web. These consumers actively exercise choice on the advertising uses of their online data through the DAA program.

• Your Ad Choices, a Website and companion ad campaign spearheaded by the 4A’s and created by 4A’s member MRM McCann, is the most comprehensive consumer education effort ever undertaken by industry on the topic of interest-based advertising. This program offers useful, understandable language that helps consumers make more informed choices about the advertising they receive.

• The DAA program now includes several hundred participant advertising companies including the top 15 advertising networks online. Over 1 trillion “AdChoices” icons are served across the Web each month

• The Council of Better Business Bureaus, the accountability arm of the DAA program, has brought 19 enforcement actions against companies who have failed to comply with the DAA self-regulatory principles. Each of these companies has been brought proactively back into program compliance.

• DAA expanded online advertising self-regulation globally through the recent formation of the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (E-DAA). The E-DAA has already engaged more than 200 companies across Europe. This effort will soon extend to North America with the launch of DAA-Canada in the Fall of 2013

Current 4A's Advocacy

The 4A’s is actively representing member concerns in the ongoing debate around the so-called “Do-Not-Track” (DNT) debate in Web browser technology. This 4A’s Member Bulletin explains what the 4A’s, in coordination with other industry groups, is doing to better inform stakeholders and to oppose efforts that are counter-productive to the established DAA self-regulatory program. This includes representing 4A’s as a member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working group reviewing this issue.

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