NAI Issues Privacy Guidelines For Digital Fingerprinting, Other Non-Cookie Ad Technology

Online ad tech companies that track consumers with digital fingerprints or other methods beyond traditional cookies must disclose their use of “non-cookie technology,” the self-regulatory group Network Advertising Initiative says in new guidance.

The NAI also says that its members must tell their publishing partners -- that is, the operators of Web sites where data is collected -- to notify consumers about non-cookie tracking technology.

Non-cookie technology enables companies to track consumers across the Web even when they attempt to protect their privacy by deleting their cookies. One common non-cookie method is digital fingerprinting -- which involves tracking users based on the characteristics of their devices. Another method relies on “Flash” cookies, which stores Web-browsing data in a different location than HTTP cookies.

The new guidance aims to enable companies to use non-cookie tracking technology while still following the organization's privacy code, according to NAI policy director Jurgen Van Staden. That code has long required companies to inform consumers about behavioral advertising, and allows them to opt out of receiving ads targeted based on Web activity.

The NAI is requiring disclosure of “non-cookie technology” in order to inform consumers that rejecting third-party cookies won't necessarily stop companies from collecting and using data for ad-targeting purposes, Van Staden tells the Daily Online Examiner.

The NAI also says it's developing an opt-out mechanism that doesn't rely on setting a so-called third-party cookie. Currently, the industry's official opt-out mechanism requires users to store their preference in a cookie. This means that people who use browsers that don't accept cookies from ad networks (like Safari) can't set an opt-out cookie without changing the browser's default settings.

The organization hopes to start testing the new opt-out mechanism next month.

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