On Monday, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (“BBB”) Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (the “Program”) announced that it had closed its investigation of seven companies that allegedly failed to provide enhanced notice of data collection for online behavioral advertising (“OBA”) on their websites. The Program, along with the Direct Marketing Association, is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance of the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. In connection with the administrative closure, the Program issued a compliance warning to all first-party websites, restating the obligations of enhanced notice and requiring compliance by January 1, 2014.
In deciding to close the investigation, the Program noted that a significant minority of websites otherwise in compliance with the OBA Principles were not in compliance with the enhanced notice requirement and that it would therefore be unfair to single out a single website (or seven). The Program also explained that the seven websites: (1) had a longstanding history of compliance with OBA requirements; (2) were among a significant number of companies confused by the enhanced notice requirement; and (3) promptly responded to the investigation, as each has achieved or will soon achieve full compliance. Additionally, there were no prior best practices, either FTC- or industry-developed, regarding enhanced notice. The Program emphasized that such administrative closures will be rare. Companies engaging in OBA should take heed of this warning, evaluate their current OBA disclosure practices, and, as necessary, adjust these practices before the January 1, 2014 compliance deadline.