Online Advertising Heavyweights Agree To Good Practice Principles

    March 4, 2009

AOL, Google, Microsoft, NebuAd, Phorm, and Yahoo promise to behave.  All of these companies – along with a few others – have volunteered to honor the Internet Advertising Bureau’s just-announced set of Good Practice Principles.

IAB described the Principles as "the UK’s first self-regulatory guidelines to set good practice for companies that collect and use data for online behavioural advertising purposes."  The Principles have been approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which reports directly to Parliament.

IAB Logo

So on to the guts of the agreement.  First, companies are supposed to tell users whenever they’re collecting data for the sake of behavioral advertising.  They’re also expected to make sure users understand what the procedure entails.  Then comes the key part: users should get the chance to opt out of the collection process.

Ad companies are probably hoping that users will either be too lazy to take action or will actually prefer better-targeted ads.  If so, the companies will continue to make money and improve their public image.  But since privacy advocates may still complain that data collection isn’t an opt-in matter, the issue isn’t likely to go away.

Mark Howe, the country sales director of Google UK, sidestepped the mess, simply stating, "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."