A recent report suggests that the improper use of the Digital Advertising Alliance's (DAA) behavioural icon is threatening to dilute the self-regulatory effectiveness of its campaign to educate consumers on the risks of online behavioural advertising and enable them to make an informed judgement in seeking to control the use of their browsing behaviour across multiple websites. While the icon has gained wide acceptance as part of the advertising industry's self-regulatory initiative, inappropriate or inaccurate use may cause consumers to be more confused, rather than educated.

Some might argue that if advertising that does not involve behavioural information nonetheless includes the DAA icon, what is the harm? However, if the objective is to educate consumers about the distinctions in how their information is collected and used by advertisers, agencies, network publishers, browser publishers and others in the interactive ecosystem, confusion fuels the concerns already raised by consumer advocacy groups, regulators and lawmakers alike – and that is counterproductive.

The good news is that the industry campaign to stimulate adoption of the self-regulatory guidelines and the inclusion of the icon in relevant advertising is gaining momentum – a sign that the industry can and will police and regulate itself. Innocent mistakes in the name of compliance are certainly better than abuse or ignorance. That said, as consumers increasingly see the icon and begin to appreciate, and take advantage of, the self-regulatory efforts, it behoves the industry to do a better job of making sure the educational component is consistent and not confusing.

For further information on this topic please contact Joseph I Rosenbaum at Reed Smith LLP by telephone (+1 212 521 5400), fax (+1 212 521 5450) or email ([email protected]).