Cloud storage company Dropbox, electronics giant Panasonic and marketing agency Harte Hanks failed to comply with the ad industry's privacy code, a unit of the Better Business Bureau said Thursday.
All three of the companies allegedly allowed online visitors to be tracked by ad networks (or other third parties), but didn't offer "enhanced" notice explaining online behavioral targeting. To provide "enhanced" notice, companies must add a separate link that takes people directly to a site where they can opt out of receiving behaviorally targeted ads; that link is supposed to appear on every page where data about visitors is collected.
The new cases by the BBB's Online Accountability Unit come nearly three years after it warned publishers to provide “clear, meaningful and prominent” links on all pages where third parties -- like ad networks and exchanges -- collect data about visitors in order to serve them with targeted ads.
At the time of the investigation, Harte Hanks was running a retargeting campaign aimed at serving ads to marketing professionals who visited the site, according to a company spokesperson.
The marketing firm resolved the watchdog's objections by adding a "Cookies & Advertising” link to its site.
In an unusual twist, all three of the cases announced Thursday originated with complaints by consumers. It's more common for the watchdog to bring cases based on its own observations, according to Genie Barton, vice president and director of the BBB's Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program. "The majority of actionable cases are from our monitoring," she says.