Dear IAB: Don’t fear the opt-out

July 21, 2010

The new ad-targeting privacy bill offered by Rep. Bobby Rush is notable because, as reported by Mediapost, it reflects greater confidence in self-regulation. But before you start looking for common ground, consider this disturbing quote:

[IAB Executive] Zaneis questioned whether it made sense to enshrine into law a universal opt-out, such as the one offered through the Network Advertising Initiative. “The FTC hasn’t said that a universal opt-out is necessary,” Zaneis says. “It’s nice to have things like an NAI opt-out, but fundamentally flawed to say that you have to have a universal opt-out.”

It’s hard to conceive of a credible consumer privacy experience that does not include the ability to opt-out of targeting by all companies in a few clicks, as opposed to requiring consumers to chase down individual opt-outs from hundreds of companies. Reputable targeting companies already provide a universal opt-out, and we provide an even more universal opt-out at PrivacyChoice. Making it a requirement is a reasonable price to pay for the self-regulatory freedom otherwise offered by the Rush bill, including immunity from a private right of action.

Maybe Mr. Zaneis is just positioning for the coming negotiation. Or perhaps the fear is that the FTC will require a more effective and durable form of opt-out, perhaps based on Flash cookies or preference setting that is better integrated with browser tools. Maybe Better Advertising would provide the ability to download Ghostery — which can completely block tracking for ads — on every enhanced notice page.  Hmmm.

Here’s my (unsolicited) advice for the IAB: Don’t fear the opt-out. We have enough experience with opt-outs to know that only a very small percentage of users avail themselves of it, but far more consumers (and advertisers) will take assurance from truly easy and effective consumer choices. But this means sincerely embracing a great consumer privacy experience for targeted ads. A great experience involves durable preference setting in just a few clicks, it’s that simple. The good news for the industry is that, in the long run, enhanced notice and choice will and should become a platform for deeper engagement with consumers.

The universal opt-out is table stakes. Far more interesting topics are what companies will need to show consumers about their own profiles, and what kind of back-end oversight is needed to ensure that those profiles are only used as promised. The sooner this debate gets around to those questions, the quicker self-regulation will be a reality.


2 Responses to “Dear IAB: Don’t fear the opt-out”

  1. […] An opt-out in the open hand August 19, 2010 I’m a little late in noting this, but it was delightful to see this tweet from the Ghostery team in response to my post about why a universal opt-out must be part of the self-regulatory framework. […]

  2. […] Global opt-outs and status should be available at all choice points. […]

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