Behavioral targeting company AudienceScience has tapped Microsoft vet Robert Gratchner to serve as vice president of privacy. Gratchner, who also is chairman of the board of the Network Advertising Initiative, will be based in the ad network's Bellevue, Wash. office.
Gratchner says that since joining AudienceScience two weeks ago, he has been assessing how the company collects, transfers and stores data. "Right now, my first priority is to understand the landscape, policies and procedures," he says.
His appointment comes as the behavioral targeting industry is under scrutiny by regulators as well as privacy advocates. Many ad networks have long said that they will stop serving behaviorally targeted ads to people who opt out of receiving them. But the current mechanisms for consumers to opt out aren't ideal; most companies currently store users' requests to opt out in cookies -- which get erased when consumers delete them.
The Federal Trade Commission recently called for a simple, persistent do-not-track mechanism that will allow consumers to avoid data collection by all ad networks. The ad industry's self-regulatory group Digital Advertising Alliance said in February that it also supports the idea that consumers should be able to opt out of all online behavioral advertising through a simple do-not-track tool.
Mozilla introduced a do-not-track header that consumers can activate, but only Yahoo and a handful of other ad networks have so far agreed to honor it. The Internet guidelines group World Wide Web Consortium is currently in the process of developing standards for a browser-based do-not-track tool.
Gratchner says that AudienceScience intends to wait for those standards before moving forward with browser-based do-not-track requests. "We're trying to wait for specifications to come out," he says.