It’s a smart move on Lotame’s part, and one that deserves praise. But as often is the case, I’m still left with a few questions, answers to which I hope Lotame can provide. (I’m posting these questions on their site as well.)
Here’s how the policy changes are explained in Lotame’s announcement:
Here are some areas requiring clarification:
1. Is Lotame incorporating by reference the NAI policies in their entirety, as written and interpreted by the NAI? I don’t recall seeing that approach in many other privacy policies.
Substantively, it is of course helpful for consumers to know that a particular ad network is abiding by a standard like NAI’s rules. But it is not helpful when a consumer has to undertake a research project to figure out what those policies may be. In this case, Lotame’s link to the NAI site still leaves the consumer to find and interpret the NAI’s policy document (a PDF that is, for some reason, buried in the news release section of the NAI site, rather than in the over view of principles).
In short, incorporating the NAI principles by reference this way is a very weak way to inform consumers of Lotame’s privacy policies. In fact, it would be hard to say that it satisfies the NAI’s requirement in the policies themselves that each member “clearly and conspicuously” post their policies on their website.
2. A change in the policy that is not mentioned specifically in Lotame’s announcement is the deletion of the following language from the previous policy statement:
In addition, we do not tailor ads based on behavioral categories that are deemed sensitive by the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI).
The Lotame experience highlights a few lessons when it comes to changes in privacy policies. Most important, privacy policies should be versioned on websites (as Google now does), and marked to show changes from the prior version. This is particularly important when the date of a policy change may affect acceptable practices with information collected before or after that date, a situation expressly contemplated by the NAI.