Coming soon to many websites near you (possibly…), you may find a slew of little blue “I” icons populating the Internet. This icon represents the latest collaboration between the Federal Trade Commission, Congress and the advertising industry to create a standardized icon, known as the “Power I,” intended to notify consumers of the online behavioral advertising practices and policies that are followed by specific websites and advertisers. Online behavioral advertising is essentially the practice carried out by some advertisers to collect and use consumers’ surfing history, demographic profiles and other personal data to deliver ads tailored to their unique and individual interests. More formally, online behavior advertising is “the collection of data from a particular computer or device regarding Web viewing behaviors over time and across non-Affiliate Web sites for the purpose of using such data to predict user preferences or interests to deliver advertising to that computer or device based on the preferences or interests inferred from such Web viewing behaviors.”

The “I” is intended to essentially function as both a trusted standard in the area of behavior advertising that consumers will immediately identify, and also as a link that, when clicked on, will take a user to a separate web page detailing why particular ads are being shown to him or her. Although websites or ads are not legally required to post the “I,” the leading trade associations behind this initiative are clearly hoping that the advertising industry will adopt this new measure, and thereby avoid the need for further government action and regulation. A detailed description / PR campaign of the “Power I” initiative has already been launched and can be accessed here, and a second PR campaign is underway.

While it’s far too early to gauge the effects of the Power I, its rate of adoption among industry players, and its success in staving off governmental action, this program is certainly an important step in the right direction, namely, a step toward further transparency and consumer education. This author wants to know if we’re likely to see a “Power C” for user consent and/or a “Power R” for data retention practices.