Taking All The Fun Out Of Fine Print

The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, is one of two entities charged with enforcing compliance with Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising established by the Digital Advertising Alliance. It recently issued a COMPLIANCE WARNING to its members setting out some pretty strict guidelines for “enhanced notice” to alert consumers that a Web site advertiser is gathering data for purposes of online behavioral advertising. Interestingly, though, the compliance burden seems to fall more on the Web site operator than it does on the advertiser.

According to the guidelines, Web site operators must provide a “clear, meaningful, and prominent link” on each “Web page where data is collectedfor OBA. According to the guidelines, the link, known as the “enhanced notice link,” should take the consumer directly to the website operator’s disclosure of third-party OBA activity that either points to an industry-developed Web page or individually lists all the third parties engaged in OBA on its Web site and provides links to each of their respective choice mechanisms. Either way, a clear, prominent link to the Web site operator’s disclosure (usually placed in the footer of the Web site or along a sidebar) must be separate from the link that takes the consumer to the Web site operator’s privacy policy.

The purpose of the enhanced notice link is to provide just-in-time enhanced notice and ensure that consumers are taken directly to a place where they can learn more about interest-based ads and decide whether they wish to participate. The goal is to provide a meaningful explanation of third-party data collection and use, rather than bury it in an obscure corner of a lengthy privacy policy.

It’s not clear how the industry will react to this mandate. In my view, convenience rules the day. If I’m in a hurry, and anxious to complete a purchase, I’m not going to get too worked up about how the Web site uses my information. I suspect I’m not unusual in that respect. Which means that disclosing the OBA information probably won’t disrupt sales. And in the privacy/data collection arena, it’s hard to be too transparent.