Smowtion Launches In U.S. With Short-Baked Opt-Out Cookies

Argentinian ad network Smowtion, which earlier this month launched in the U.S., could be in for some pushback from privacy advocates.

Like many behavioral targeting companies, Smowtion allows users to opt out of ads targeted based on Web-surfing activity. Unlike many of its rivals, the company sets its opt-out to expire after only 30 days, Privacy Choice reported today.

Smowtion hasn't yet responded to MediaPost's requests for comment, so it's not yet clear whether the short duration of the opt-out is deliberate or a glitch. Either way, the company risks running afoul of deceptive practices laws in the U.S.

Earlier this year, ad network Chitika agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission stemming from opt-out cookies that expired after only 10 days. (Chitika said it intended for the cookie to last for 10 years.) Among other terms, Chitika said that in the future its opt-out cookies would last for at least 5 years.

Regardless of whether an opt-out cookie that vanishes after only 30 days is unlawful, it certainly doesn't seem fair to consumers to tell them they can opt out of online behavioral advertising only to quietly start deploying the technique again one month later.

Of course, consumers who eschew behavioral targeting by setting opt-out cookies have long faced the problem of disappearing opt-outs -- though that's often because users themselves, or their anti-spyware programs, delete the cookies. That's one reason why the FTC and privacy advocates are cheering the emergence of browser-based do-not-track headers.

Those headers, however, are only effective if ad networks agree to honor them. So far, few networks other than Chitika and BlueKai have made any move to do so.

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1 comment about "Smowtion Launches In U.S. With Short-Baked Opt-Out Cookies".
  1. Mark Bruce from HiTechPR , April 26, 2011 at 10:51 p.m.

    Wendy, first of all, thank you for writing about Smowtion and the official opening of our first U.S. office in Miami. We truly appreciate your interest in our company and its supply side advertising network capabilities.

    With regard to your note about Smowtion's opt-out policies: we use a two cookie system, and, until we noticed the same research you quoted, we did not realize the Smowtion cookie was inadvertently out of sync with Yahoo's
    RightMedia system which effectively bans Smowtion from tracking users once they opt out, in line with current FTC regulations (5+ years).

    We're glad that Privacy Choices noted the issue and you should be aware that they have already noted our fix on their website. This glitch was immediately corrected on our site and as far as we know it posed no problem for our
    users.

    In addition, you should know we are actively working with the IAB to be a member of aboutads.info/choices. And, starting in 2010, we employed TRUSTe to verify that our privacy policies are in accord with all relevant U.S.
    laws. We continue working towards that end.

    Sincerely,
    Marcelo Garcia Cisneros, CRO, marcelo@smowtion.com