Do People Care About Ad Targeting?


Early results from TRUSTe’s privacy-alert icon program show that hardly anybody clicks for more information. The AdChoices icon program from the Digital Advertising Alliance, recently adopted by Yahoo for Europe and Google’s AdSense domestically, alerts consumers to the fact that they are viewing online behavioral-targeted advertising and offers them the options to view what types of data are being collected and to opt-out.
A recent study by DoubleVerify revealed that only .002 percent of the 5 billion ad impressions surveyed resulted in a click-through from the AdChoices icon for more information on the advertising network serving the ad. A mere one percent of those who clicked on the icon for more information on the data being collected decided to opt-out of behavioral targeted advertising.That doesn’t sound like a huge backlash against anonymous data collection. The advertising industry is in show and tell mode for Washington and privacy watch dog organizations anxious to force rapid results on data usage standards.
Search firms, brands and demand-side platforms appear ready to flood consumers’ screens with transparency and data privacy tools that provide a semblance of data ownership but not necessarily consistency in application or levels of data privacy. That inconstant level of efficacy and approach to data makes the AdChoices icon program a kind of paper tiger that probably won’t satisfy Washington’s privacy and Do Not Track enthusiasts, unless more data emerges making it evident that the American public doesn’t really care.According to DoubleVerify, one of the firms which certifies data privacy compliance for the DAA, the AdChoices program is at the core of the industry-wide reform efforts.
“Advertisers (using the AdChoices icon) will be able to quickly show government agencies that they are taking consumer privacy seriously and that they’re doing all they can to provide users with the tools they need to control behavioral targeting,” DoubleVerify CEO Oren Netzer recently told Digiday. “This is an essential step we need to take to get advertisers, networks and publishers on board on a massive scale. Once the entire industry comes together to stand behind a set standards, consumers will feel more informed and in control of their privacy and the government will be satisfied with the industries efforts.”That would work if standards could be universally defined and enforced within the industry.”
Although Microsoft registered its support for the DAA’s ad-options program, Microsoft’s advertising division is still debating the practical applications of that support, and is giving no indication of when, or if, it will fall in line with the totality of the program’s standards.“Our view is that that’s an industry discussion,” Erich Andersen, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, told the WSJ.
“We’re trying to take a leadership role in helping users send a signal of their intention. But the key thing is that a definition of ‘tracking’ needs to happen.” The parameters of consumer choices need to be established as well. The AdChoices opt-out designation will block different types of behavioral-targeted ads, but not all, or most, depending on the network serving the ads.
The fact that AdChoices doesn’t stop all behavioral advertising when a consumer chooses to opt-out is a sticking point with Congress, used by some senators during recent hearings on data privacy to suggest that the industry was unwilling to grant consumers true control over their data.
I met with FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz as well as other FTC staff,” wrote TRUSTe President Fran Maier in the TRUSTe blog in January. “The clear takeaway is that the FTC is looking for companies to adopt the self-regulatory guidelines. They want to see success and now is the time to act.” The industry acted, but will congress finally applaud or consumers ever really care?

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