The Interactive Advertising Bureau's leadership has voted to require all members to publicly state that they adhere to the industry's self-regulatory privacy rules governing online behavioral advertising.
IAB members will have up to six months to affirm that they follow the self-regulatory principles, released in 2009 by a cross-industry coalition, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Direct Marketing Association. The public promise to adhere to the guidelines is contained in the IAB's new code of conduct, which was approved unanimously by the board of directors on Sunday.
IAB general counsel Mike Zaneis adds that companies that renege on promises to comply with the industry's self-regulatory principles could also face Federal Trade Commission sanctions for engaging in deceptive practices. "The FTC could open an enforcement case if the companies state they are doing one thing, but are not living up to their statement," he says.
In addition, companies that aren't in compliance will face a minimum six-month suspension under the IAB's new code of conduct, approved on Sunday by its board of directors.
The Direct Marketing Association already monitors members through its own enforcement program. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is expected to begin monitoring online behavioral advertising companies by the end of March. The startup Evidon (formerly Better Advertising) is providing the technology for the two enforcement programs.
The self-regulatory principles provide that cookie-based behavioral advertising -- or tracking users anonymously via cookies at publishers' Web sites and then serving them ads -- requires clear and prominent notice in at least two places. First, the publishers' sites and within or around targeted ads themselves, or second, another place on the page where the data is collected. The principles also require Web companies to obtain users' consent to online tracking, although in most cases consent can be on an opt-out basis.
The IAB's new code of conduct is part of the industry's effort to prove that no new laws are needed to protect users' privacy. Earlier this month, two bills were introduced in Congress. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) proposed the Do Not Track Me Online Act (H.R. 654), which would allow users to opt out of online tracking by ad companies. Plus, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) reintroduced an online privacy bill that would require ad networks to obtain users' consent to tracking.