What’s Making News?

The Better Business Bureau’s Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program) recently challenged Best Buy, Yelp, Answers Corp., Buzzfeed Inc., and Go.com over the companies’ failure to provide adequate notice regarding the fact that information was collected from their sites for online behavioral advertising (OBA) purposes. This marks the first enforcement action since the Accountability Program sent out warning letters related to inadequate compliance back in October 2013.

What’s the Problem?

The companies contacted by the Accountability Program were failing to comply with the requirements set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) in connection with OBA. Notably, under the DAA requirements, website operators must take certain steps to provide adequate notice and choice when participating in OBA. Notice is often provided using the AdChoices icon on advertisements served on third-party websites. It is commonly seen on ads across the Internet and looks like this:

Click here to view image.

Additionally, those website operators that allow third-parties to collect information from their websites, or that collect information on their own websites for OBA purposes, must serve an advertisement on each page of their website that displays the icon. Either that, or they must notify consumers of such activities by placing a link in the footer of their website that goes directly to either (a) an industry website that discusses OBA, provides a list of third-party advertisers participating on the site, and provides an opt-out; or (b) the section of the website operator’s privacy policy that provides this information. Where the website operator chooses to link to the privacy policy, the link providing the OBA information must still be separate from the privacy policy in the footer of the website. When creating the link in the footer of the website, some sites use the AdChoices icon plus wording such as “Ad Choices,” but a website may also just use the wording.

Given these requirements, the Accountability Program had concerns with the lack of notice and choice provided by Best Buy, Yelp, Answers Corp., Buzzfeed Inc., and Go.com. That said, the companies sprung to action, agreeing to comply with all requirements after being contacted by the Accountability Program.

Significance

All companies that transact business over the Internet should be familiar with the OBA requirements and the Accountability Program’s recent activity. The Accountability Program has indicated that it will continue to seek out websites that fail to provide adequate notice and choice. And, as shown by the previous warning detailed in our earlier alert, the Accountability Program is living up to its word. Therefore, all websites that engage in OBA should be sure to provide appropriate notice and choice on their websites and to update their privacy policies, as needed.