DMA Adopts Behavioral Targeting Guidelines


The Direct Marketing Association said Monday that it has updated its ethical guidelines to incorporate the online behavioral targeting principles announced this summer by a consortium of industry groups.

The industry-wide principles essentially call on companies to notify consumers about behavioral targeting and allow them to opt out of it. The principles were created by a joint task force of the DMA, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Council of Better Business Bureaus.

While the new guidelines are similar to standards developed around 10 years ago by the Network Advertising Initiative, they are potentially more far-reaching because the task force members represent over 5,000 companies. The DMA also said Monday that it had expanded its mobile guidelines, which emphasize that advertisers need to obtain users' prior express consent for marketing messages.

The DMA's move comes as lawmakers are drafting privacy legislation that could regulate online behavioral targeting. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has previously said that he expects to soon introduce a bill that would require companies to notify users about ad targeting -- or tracking users across various Web sites in order to figure out what types of goods and services they are most likely buy -- and to seek users' consent. It's not yet clear whether lawmakers are likely to propose that marketers should obtain users' explicit opt-in agreement to certain forms of online ad targeting, or if proposed bills will call for opt-out consent.

Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy, said consumer groups plan to continue to press for new legislation. "Privacy advocates have told both Congress and the FTC that the latest version of self-regulatory principles won't work," he said.

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