Accountability Program hits 100; engages in wistful look back

All Grown Up!

Launched in 2011, the Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (IBA Accountability Program) just reached a major milestone: 100 public actions reviewing and enforcing advertising in line with the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) self-regulatory privacy principles.

(For those not in-the-know, the DAA manages the AdChoices program, whose logo can be seen on various websites throughout the internet.)

The DAA brought the IBA Accountability Program into existence by tapping the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the iconic marketplace-trust-building nonprofit organization. The BBB built and administers the IBA Accountability Program – which now, after reaching its 100th public action, is eager to share what it has learned and engage in some well-deserved self-promotion.

Just Doing Our Job

Before we summarize the report, we should note that its release coincides with the announcement of the program’s 99th and 100th cases, which are worth a look.

We’re not sure which is number 99 and which is 100, but both cases followed a similar pattern. The IBA Accountability Program claimed that third-party advertising companies were collecting visitor data on genetic testing company MyHeritage’s site – without an “enhanced notice” to users that would have disclosed the third-party data collection practices to site visitors in accordance with Section II.B of the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA Principles). The company listened to the IBA Accountability Program’s concerns and added an appropriate notice link. Mizzen and Main, the manufacturer of moisture-wicking, wrinkleless menswear, faced a similar review and added an enhanced notice and updated its privacy policy in response. Among other requirements, Section II.B. of the OBA Principles requires website operators to “post a clear, meaningful and prominent link to a disclosure on any web page through which [interest-based advertising] data is collected.”

The Takeaway

Here are some of the report’s findings:

• The majority of the program’s public actions involved desktop computer environments, with a smaller fraction involving mobile advertising.

• The lion’s share – 84% – of the cases involved issues of “enhanced notice” disclosures for consumer awareness of online behavior advertising data collection.

• Public complaints are the source of 13% of the program’s work.

• The IBA has handled roughly the same number of cases involving first-party publishers (35) and third-party advertisers (28). Six cases featured review of both types.

But the report also delves into the history of the program and many of the issues that preoccupy its members – including location-based data, opt-out tools and cross-device ads. It’s worth a read.

But perhaps the major takeaway from the report is something that the 99th and 100th cases demonstrated (whatever their order) – nearly every case ended with cooperation and compliance from the investigated companies.