The White House, Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission each commended the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) self-regulatory privacy program for online, interest-based advertising.  This event was one carefully orchestrated part of a significant and comprehensive Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights the White House unveiled on the same day. This Bill of Rights is intended to provide consumers with greater online privacy protection through voluntary codes of conduct, federal legislation, and enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General.

Advertisers and agencies will likely watch closely this DAA self-regulatory program that is a White House-commended form of voluntary code of conduct provided for in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.  Online advertisers in all industries will need to review their policies and processes for compliance with these DAA principles and programs as a forerunner of possible future regulatory and court action.

While Internet companies clearly seem to have gotten the message that they must regulate themselves or be regulated, they are likely to be more than a little nervous that a large percentage of consumers may opt-out, which could result in a significant re-tooling of behavioral advertising revenue models.  Notably, the self-regulation measures generally do not impact first-party behavioral advertising (such as targeted ads sent by Amazon to Amazon customers, or sponsored Google search results).

Digital Advertising Alliance

The Digital Advertising Alliance is a consortium of the nation’s largest media and marketing associations, including American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the National Advertising Federation, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Network Advertising Initiative. 

The DAA has several programs for guidance of advertisers for all types of businesses, including advertisers, agencies, web publishing or non-profits that have a presence on the web.

Most recently, last January, the DAA launched the “Your Ad choices” public education advertising campaign designed to inform consumers about interest-based advertising and how they can take greater control of their online privacy through the ad choices icon:

Click here to view the icon.

The educational campaign includes banner advertising that directs consumers to the icon and also links to a new informational website.  According to the DDA, “[w]henever you see the Icon, you’ll know two things: (1) You can find out when information about your online interests is being gathered or used to customize the Web ads you see, and (2) you can choose whether to continue seeing these types of ads.”

The first program of the DAA was launched in 2009 for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) by introducing seven self-regulatory principles of OBA. In 2011 the DAA expanded the scope of its self-regulatory program beyond OBA with a self-regulatory guide for Multi-Site Data Principles” which established a framework governing the collection of online data from a particular computer or device regarding web viewing over time and across non-affiliated websites. 

See our previous analysis of the DDA “Multi-site Data Principles.   The Multi-Site Data Principles codified existing industry practices prohibiting the collection of multi-site data for the purpose of any adverse determination, including employment, credit, health treatment or insurance eligibility, as well as specific protections for sensitive data concerning children, health and financial data.

Pointer to the Future of Compliance

The commendation by the White House and government agencies may signal a new era in self-regulation and place greater focus on compliance with the DDA guidelines as being compliant with the direction that online consumer privacy law is taking.  Some privacy activists, however, have complained that these and similar guidelines  do not go far enough, and that the government should not trust this industry to regulate itself.  Time will tell.