Tags on Web sites can provide marketing benefits but also pose privacy risks, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said on Thursday in a draft guide to best practices for site tagging.
The use of tags (also called pixels or beacons) has grown in recent years, as more and more sites rely on third parties for ad targeting, personalization and analytics. That development has pluses and minuses, according to the IAB.
"While tags can add value to a site, increased tagging may also create technical and operational challenges for the site," the draft best-practices guide states. "Common challenges include: operational strain, unintentional transfer of data, user abandonment, negative impact to customer experience (including performance issues), and increased privacy concerns."
To minimize the privacy risks, the IAB is recommending that site owners flag tags for legal review if they collect personally identifiable information, such as including address, phone number, or email address. The IAB says that legal experts also should review data collection of sensitive data -- including "any data collection that relates to actual or inferred information about medical conditions, sexual orientation, political affiliations, children, or children-related interest segments."
Steve Sullivan, IAB vice president of advertising technology, says no tags should gather that type of personally identifiable or sensitive data. "That kind of thing isn't acceptable," he says. The IAB best practices guide adds that most tags will collect anonymous clickstream data and browser features.
Sullivan also says site owners need to monitor their sites to know which companies are placing tags there, and should give contracts spelling out what type of data will be collected.
The IAB's best practices guide advises publishers to ensure that any data collection complies with self-regulatory principles, which require notifying consumers about how their data is collected and used.
The IAB is accepting comments on the draft document until Jan. 4, 2013.