Who’s checking your opt-out process?

November 9, 2010

At PrivacyChoice we have been building out our processes to better automate how we check and analyze opt-outs across the nearly 300 ad-delivery companies in the PrivacyChoice Index.

Given this visibility, it never ceases to amaze me how many companies fail to check or monitor their own opt-out processes. We’re now up to well over two dozen cases in which an ad targeting company purports to offer an opt-out, but it either was never really implemented or is broken in some serious way.

The latest example is Chango, which targets ads based on search queries harvested from referring URLs seen by Chango’s publisher partners. There’s probably no behavioral data more intimate to users (and more valuable to advertisers) than the stuff Chango collects.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to verify the proper operation of Chango’s opt-out for several months; their process tells you you’re opted out, but doesn’t write any kind of enduring cookie, much less one that is labeled as an opt-out. As is our practice, we have privately written to Chango multiple times to let them know of the issue, but we’ve never received a reply.

Here’s the deal: For all of its limitations, cookie-based opt-outs are at the heart of the self-regulatory framework. If you’re not prepared to invest in a well-designed, properly functioning and monitored opt-out program, then you really shouldn’t be in the behavioral targeting business.

If you manage privacy at an ad-targeting company, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Which human in your company owns the technical opt-out process end to end?
  2. Have you implemented an opt-out with best practices (including a long cookie life and overwriting any unique identifiers that collect behavioral data)?
  3. How will you know when it’s broken?

2 Responses to “Who’s checking your opt-out process?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Hi PrivacyChoice – thanks for bringing this to our attention. You are correct, we seem to have a had a glitch in our opt-out system. I’ve let our ops team know and I’m confident they will have this patched in a day or so. And I will also suggest an auto-test system to catch any future problems.

    -Chris (CEO Chango)

  2. Karim Mitha Says:

    Hey Privacy Choice,

    Just wanted to update you that we’re just as concerned with our user privacy as you are and we’ve fixed our opt-out process. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Also wanted to mention that we were not ignoring your emails – they seem to have been directed to our SPAM folder. We would have certainly fixed this issue right away if we had received your emails directly. We’d like to welcome you to test the new opt out link below.


    A cookie called chango.optout will be added to your machine.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: