IAB's Anti-Fraud Principles Call Out Adware, 'Incentivized' Browsing

The Interactive Advertising Bureau's new anti-fraud principles, issued this morning, contain a surprise: They appear to take aim at adware and other “illegitimate” platforms that offer users a benefit in exchange for viewing ads.

The principles, which reflect the IAB's efforts to stem online ad fraud, call on publishers, ad networks and ad exchanges to implement measures to identify “illegitimate and fraudulent” traffic. The principles also prohibit publishers, ad networks and exchanges from selling that traffic.

That portion of the principles references both “bots” -- meaning computers that generate clicks on ads -- and “illegitimate human activity,” defined as “incentivized browsing, AdWare traffic, and other traffic that comes from humans coopted into interacting with ads through means other than the ad itself.”

A proposed taxonomy elaborates further, characterizing incentivized browsing as “a human user that is offered payment or benefits to view or interact with ads.”

The same document defines adware as “a device where a user is present and additional html or ad calls are made by the AdWare independently of the content being requested by the user.”

Those definitions are only proposals and could be revised in the future, IAB general counsel Mike Zaneis tells MediaPost. He adds that the principles -- which, he says, aren't yet “operationalized” -- are meant to alert publishers and ad networks to the possibility that some ad-serving platforms can deceive users.

As written, however, the new principles seem to criticize activity that's not in itself fraudulent -- or even necessarily problematic.

After all, a wide range of ad-supported media offers users some sort of benefit -- like the opportunity to read a news article, watch a tv show, or listen to music -- in exchange for viewing ads.

And adware itself, while often criticized, has never been deemed unlawful. The major problem previously posed by adware -- or software that serves ads to users based on the content they view -- was that companies sometimes tricked users into downloading the ad-serving programs.

The IAB still has the opportunity to refine these principles when it issues a set of best practices, which it says will “provide clear guidance for companies to achieve compliance.”

1 comment about " IAB's Anti-Fraud Principles Call Out Adware, 'Incentivized' Browsing".
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  1. Ron Stitt from Fox Television Stations, September 17, 2014 at 10:03 a.m.

    I think you're right, incentivized viewing of ads is not necessarily fraudulent, and their may be legitimate applications (although in the online world many such schemes are designed to trick users and generally take advantage of them, and can be virtually impossible to opt out of). Perhaps for legitimate such programs however, the key would be disclosure (to the buyer) where this is being done, so that the resultant inventory can be viewed almost as a discrete channel that an advertiser can choose to utilize (or not), based on their needs.

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