The online behavioral advertising sector received a rude awakening at the end of 2010 from unsatisfied federal regulators. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce published reports espousing increased regulation of online behavioral advertising – the former report encouraging Congress to consider a “Do Not Track” regime and the latter expressing an arguably more favorable stance on industry self-regulation. Similarly, legislators on one side of the aisle have introduced online privacy legislation, and those on the other side have at least intimated interest in the issue. Thus, it comes as no surprise that just three weeks into 2011, the advertising industry has taken steps to strengthen its collective effort at keeping the government at bay and beefing up its self-regulation arsenal.
On Tuesday, January 18, the president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, Bob Liodice, reached out to the association’s members in direct response to the FTC’s report. Via email, Liodice encouraged the ANA members to adopt privacy best practices and the self-regulation program the association and its progeny, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), published and implemented in the past two years. Additionally, the email was accompanied by a newly drafted toolkit geared to facilitating compliance with these best practices. (The email and toolkit can be seen in full here.)
Right on the heels of the ANA’s outreach, on Thursday, January 20, the DAA announced its approval of a third trustmark privacy platform provider, TRUSTe and its TRUSTed Ads platform. TRUSTe joins DoubleVerify and Evidon as the third approved provider of consumer privacy icons and platforms. These icons and platforms form a significant piece of the DAA’s self-regulation program that seeks to appease privacy concerns by giving consumers clear disclosures on how data collected through ad is used, as well as providing them with opt-out mechanisms. (More details on the DAA program can be found at http://www.aboutads.info/home/.) To encourage advertiser compliance with the DAA’s self-regulation program, TRUSTe is offering its platform for free on a trial basis. With more trustmark ad platform options, the DAA can expect to gain additional buy-in from online advertisers.
While commentary on the FTC report does not close until the end of this month, regulators have clearly presented the ad industry with strong incentives to speed up its self-regulation efforts – and thus far, the industry seems to be responding swiftly.