Ad Industry Effectively Delivers Consumer Choice…While Others Seek Headlines or Power Grabs

August 29, 2013

At a time when users have more choice than ever over how and whether their information is used to provide them with relevant advertising, a recent story in The Wall Street Journal (“Taming the Spies of Web Advertising,” August 8, 2013, subscription required) borders on the absurd.


The White House and Federal Trade Commission have praised the online advertising industry’s self-regulatory model for its robustness and transparency. Web users see the Advertising Option  icon more than a trillion times every month; the program offers cookie-hardening protectors to prevent accidental deletion of opt-out cookies, it has expanded internationally to 30 countries, and just last month the program was expanded to cover mobile and in-app interest-based ads. Simply stated: We deliver transparency, choice and privacy protections, while others seek to make headlines, leave legacies or consolidate power.


The DAA Consumer Choices program – which works with any browser – also protects users’ choices with two independent enforcement mechanisms, which is two more than exist for any other privacy tool.  The program covers all interest-based advertising, regardless of whether advertisers are DAA participants, and to date, has filed 19 compliance actions against participants and non-participants alike. All of this is embodied in a program whose technology neutrality promotes both competition and diverse content.


Despite claims on behalf of advocates about the privacy interests involved, "Do Not Track" discussions at the World Wide Web Consortium and marketplace moves (for example, Mozilla) have devolved into a process of picking winners and losers in the Internet advertising ecosystem – instead of doing what is imperative, and that is to facilitate all Internet business models that provide for, and ensure, responsible information use paired with a universal mechanism for consumer control.


If anything has failed, it has been the ability to reach meaningful compromise with members of a hardline community who seem fixated on consolidating power for one particular business model (you can do only interest-based ads if you have a multi-billion dollar brand or a double-digit percentage of the browser market) while frightening consumers by demonizing cookies. Please see Mozilla’s recently announced plans about effectively becoming an ad network.  Truth is, advertisers and ad technology companies have continually sought solutions that recognize both the importance of consumer choice, and the enormous value of ad-supported free Internet content. Consumers click twice as often and publishers get paid almost three times as much.


Facts are stubborn things. The industry has bent over backward to make Do Not Track work under the terms of a 2012 White House agreement. Meanwhile, the advocacy community has either punted or changed key terms, frustrated compromise, and misrepresented the DAA program. We will not stand idly by and allow anti-competitive interests to use privacy as a cloak for consolidating power in a few very large players. We remain open to compromise, but in the meantime we will continue to provide consumers with real choices, to which millions have subscribed (25 million visits to our sites, 2 million opt-out choices expressed), backed by real enforcement – without the need for legislation, and without the need for technology that blocks a relevant consumer online experience.


The reality is that delivering relevance to consumers is a powerful force on the Internet. Nearly 70% want relevant ads. We should seek to do so in a transparent and responsible manner that respects individual choice while promoting competition and content diversity. DAA delivers on this promise today because that is who we are…we deliver transparency and choice 1 trillion times a month. We wait for other stakeholders to join us in the responsible ecosystem of relevance we help to protect and promote, instead of clouding the national debate with hollow promises and erroneous assertions.


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