For several weeks now, internet users visiting MSN sites in EEA countries will have seen a small “AdChoices” icon next to online adverts appearing on the sites.
AdChoices icon will bring greater transparency to Online Behavioral Advertising
See the screenshot at the end of the post.
The icon is intended to give users transparency and choice about online behavioural advertising (OBA). The roll-out of the icon on our sites is an important part of Microsoft’s compliance with the IAB Europe Self-Regulatory Framework on OBA
. This Framework, signed in April 2011, commits signatory companies to alert consumers to the presence on a web page of so-called “third party” advertisements that are either placed on the basis of data collected on the user’s prior surfing behaviour, or that are collecting such data with an eye to pitching the user such ads in future. The “third parties” are ad networks or advertisers whose presence on a given Internet page may not be evident to consumers. For example, a user may be visiting an online news portal, or a recipe site, and see adverts that have been placed on the site on behalf of an advertiser that is unrelated to the news portal or recipe site – perhaps the ad will be for a brand of sporting equipment that the user has previously bought online, or for plane fares to a destination the user has done a recent online search about. If the companies placing the ads are signatories of the IAB Self-regulatory Framework, those ads should carry the AdChoices icon and a link to a page where the user can opt out of receiving such advertising in future. The “opt-out” page will be run by the EDAA, and will allow users to control which ad networks they wish to continue to receive ads from, if any, and which ones they do not which to be “targeted” by.
The Framework does not apply to so-called “first party” adverts – that is, adverts that are placed by the web publisher who runs the site that the user is visiting. But Microsoft has committed, on a voluntary basis, to “hard-code” the icon into its own web portals, in order to increase transparency and control for users. So if you visit MSN.UK or MSN.de, static advertisements appearing on the site will carry the AdChoices icon and, via the icon, a link to a page providing information on Microsoft’s policies on online behavioural advertising (video ads for the moment do not carry the icon). The page will also allow you to opt out of such advertising in future. On any website carrying OBA advertising where Microsoft’s ad network is acting as a provider of “third party” advertising, the icon should appear inside the advert itself.
Over 150 companies in the online advertising chain have signed up to the Framework as of today, and IAB Europe has committed to ensuring that 70% of all OBA adverts carry the icon by June 2012. The Framework covers the entire EEA, and users with issues will be able to take those issues up with the advertising industry Self-regulatory Organisation (SRO) in their countries (the opt-out page should contain contact information directing the user to the relevant national SRO). Signatory companies need to perform a self-certification to test whether they comply with the criteria laid down by the EDAA, and submit to independent audits of their self-certifications. A B2B seal, which is in the process of being developed, will be awarded to signatories who pass the independent audits.
The European Commission’s DG Connect has a high expectation of this self-regulatory Framework, and the pressure is on the signatory companies, including Microsoft, to demonstrate that self-regulation can obviate the need for legal requirements.
This is one of a range of tools that Microsoft has invested in – including Tracking Protection Lists and support for the current W3C work on a standard for “Do Not Track” – to provide users more control over the advertising they receive as they surf the Net.
We are very interested to hear your views on online advertising. Please let us know what you think and post your comments below.