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IAB Sets Out Behavioural Advertising Guidelines
By: MarkJ - 04 March, 2009 (9:28 AM)

Controversial behavioural advertising systems, such as those that work with UK ISPs to monitor users website browsing habits and thus develop targeted advertising campaigns (i.e. Phorm, BT Webwise), have been given a new set of guidelines by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The IAB reports that all of the key players, including Phorm, AOL, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, have now agreed to the following three core "guideline" commitments:

Notice. A company collecting and using online information for behavioural advertising must clearly inform a consumer that data is being collected for this purpose.

Consent. A company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide a mechanism for users to decline behavioural advertising and where applicable seek a consumer's consent.

Education. A company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide consumer with clear and simple information about their use of data for this purpose and how users can decline.
Typically guidelines are not the same as rules, though not everybody agrees with what the IAB has said. Prominent anti-Phorm campaigner Alexander Hanff has already written an open letter to Nick Stringer, the IAB's Head of Regulatory Affairs, requesting clarification on several points:

Dear Mr. Stringer,

I note with interest and concern an article which appeared on Reuters’ web site earlier this evening regarding the IAB and their release of “good practice principles” with regards to targetted/behavioural advertising. I note the article states the following:

“Under the proposals, all online behavioural advertising platforms must clearly inform a consumer before taking any data, they must provide a way for users to decline behavioural advertising and preferably seek a consumer’s consent.”

The reason for my concern is that this paragraph simply does not adhere to UK or EU law or regulations. Firstly the mention that an advertising platform must “inform a consumer before taking any data” is somewhat of an insult to the privacy rights of the individual - the law states that they must seek permission to take any data not that they must “inform a consumer before taking any data”; the very wording of that statement seems to suggest that advertising corporations have a right to take the data which clearly is not the case under law.

Secondly, I was not only shocked but found it hard to believe that the article states “and preferably seek a consumer’s consent.” Again I should point out that under all laws relating to personal data (including Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, Privacy and Electronic Communications (EU Directive) Regulations and the Data Protection Act - to mention just a few) obtaining informed consumer consent is a requirement not a preference.

I would appreciate an official response from the IAB clarifying these issues and will be contacting the EU Commission and UK Politicians/Regulators regarding the same in the near future.

As an open letter this correspondence will be published on https://nodpi.org along with any response received.

Sincerely,

Alexander Hanff
NoDPI.Org

Sadly it seems increasingly like such systems will soon become an accepted practice in the UK, with BT seemingly gearing itself up to proceed despite some notable opposition and EU concern.


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