The Online Internet-Based Advertising Accountability Program recently concluded an inquiry it had opened into the native advertising practices of Outbrain, Inc.

The Online Internet-Based Advertising Accountability Program recently concluded an inquiry it had opened into the native advertising practices of Outbrain, Inc. In its press release about the matter, the Accountability Program reminded companies that native advertisements, just like any online advertisement, must comply with the Digital Advertising Alliance Self-Regulatory Principles. Native advertisements are those that look similar to the surrounding online content; for example sponsored content (“promoted stories”) on social media. Outbrain provides a “content recommendation widget,” which places promoted stories on publishers’ websites. These recommendations may be based in part on the use of consumers’ browsing behavior across websites and over time. The Accountability Program was concerned that the recommendation widget did not have an enhanced notice link in or around its recommendation widgets, did not include a statement of adherence to the DAA Principles in its privacy policy, did not include the enhanced notice link on any page where collection by third parties known to engage in interest-based advertising occurred, did not disclose third-party interest-based advertising occurring on the Outbrain website, and did not provide a compliant opt-out link. That said, the Accountability Program noted that Outbrain did explain in its privacy policy that it may use consumers’ browsing behavior across websites and over time to tailor sponsored content. 

Outbrain responded that it had already begun taking remedial steps to address the concerns the Accountability Program raised. This included contacting a publisher whose website incorrectly implemented the widget, generating and testing the feasibility of different methods to ensure the functionality of the disclosure links when being used by third party web publishers, modifying the location of the interest-based advertising opt-out button in its privacy policy to make it more prominent, and planning additional revisions to its disclosure pop-up box and privacy policy. In addition, it also laid out a provisional compliance plan subject to Accountability Program review and agreed to add a statement of adherence to the DAA Principles and its privacy policy.

TIP: This case is a reminder that the DAA expects companies engaging in (or facilitating) native advertising that is reliant on IBA to ensure that appropriate “enhanced” notice is provided in connection with the IBA-served content.