Privacy Policy Fail: Company Tells Users To Change IP Addresses, Stop Clicking On Ads

You'd think that a company that offers opt-out instructions in its privacy policy would only do so if users could follow those instructions.

Unfortunately, you'd be wrong, at least in the case of performance marketing company adMarketplace. The company was called out on Twitter this week for its privacy policy, which gives opt-out advice that's impossible to follow.

Here's the exact language as of Thursday afternoon: "To prevent adMarketplace from tracking your behavior on a website, turn off cookies, utilize a changing IP address, and do not click on or interact with any advertisements."

Someone who reads that quickly might think that adMarketplace was giving people useful advice. In reality, these are the type of recommendations that confuse consumers, make them distrust advertising -- and generally give the industry a bad name.

Telling people to "turn off" cookies isn't all that useful, especially since they would have to disable first- as well as third-party cookies to prevent adMarketplace from tracking them. Telling people not to click on any ads is unhelpful, and probably counterproductive. Telling people to change their IP addresses borders on the absurd. AdMarketplace might as well have told people to stop using the Web.

President Adam Epstein says that the privacy policy, including the opt-out language, was vetted and approved by a third-party verification service. Epstein also says that adMarketplace intends to add opt-out functionality to its site soon.

He also says that adMarketplace doesn't engage in online behavioral advertising, or serving targeted ads to users based on their Web activity. Therefore, adMarketplace doesn't have to offer any opt-out under current self-regulatory standards. (Privacy advocates say that people should be able to opt out of online data collection even if it's just used for analytics, but no laws or self-regulatory standards mandate that.

Still, that raises the question, why include supposed opt-out instructions in the first place?

To be fair, adMarketplace isn't the only company with problematic language in its privacy policy. The company only happened to draw attention this week because PrivacyChoice CEO Jim Brock mentioned it on Twitter. Brock also found other problems with adMarketplace's policy, but the company immediately took steps to address them.

Another company called out this week was Delta Air Lines, which was sued by California Attorney General Kamala Harris for failing to include a privacy policy in its app. Soon after the lawsuit was brought, Delta published a privacy policy for its Fly Delta app -- but, according to researcher Ashkan Soltani, that policy omitted to mention that its iPhone app collects users' unique device identifiers and passes that information along to ad networks.

Ultimately, when it comes to privacy policies, simply having them shouldn't be enough to satisfy watchdogs. It should go without saying that such policies also need to contain useful information.

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2 comments about "Privacy Policy Fail: Company Tells Users To Change IP Addresses, Stop Clicking On Ads".
  1. Alex Mizrahi from n/a , December 13, 2012 at 3:27 p.m.
    Kamala Harris. Kampala is the capital of Uganda.
  2. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , December 14, 2012 at 4:58 a.m.
    Mediapost's privacy policy doesn't mention the word tracking at all. This legal stuff is not easy.