Yes, Johnny Can Benefit From Transparency and Control

November 3, 2011

A recent survey by Carnegie Mellon University entitled, “Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out: A Usability Evaluation of Tools to Limit Online Behavioral Advertising,” identifies what the researchers view as inefficiencies in the current DAA Self-Regulatory Program.

This study, which cites a small sample size of only 45 participants, insufficiently describes the actual interactions of millions of consumers and their experience with the DAA’s Program by completely ignoring how the average consumer “discovers” their online choices with regard to online behavioral ads.

The DAA has revolutionized consumer education and choice by delivering a real-time, in-ad notice more than 10 billion times every day through the increasingly ubiquitous DAA Advertising Option Icon (also known as the “Ad Choices” Icon).  This in-ad notice allows consumers to easily click-through to the DAA Consumer Choice Web page (bypassing the DAA homepage entirely).  Once on the consumer choice page, the largest graphic element present on the page is a button that clearly states, “Choose all companies” that quickly and easily enables consumers control over their online advertising and at their discretion.

The DAA would like to submit the results of a much broader survey with real-world metrics; one that is occurring every single week in a broad, consumer environment:

  •     In the past week, nearly 70,000 American Internet users visited the DAA Website.  Clearly our enhanced notice program is gaining the attention of consumers
  •     Of these Website visitors, nearly 50,000 people visited the consumer choice page
  •     Companies participating in the DAA’s Self-Regulatory Program today comprise 85% of the OBA marketplace, and there is a strong enforcement mechanism to police the entire OBA ecosystem.

It is clear from these real-world metrics that consumers are having little difficulty in finding the DAA Website or the DAA Consumer Choice Page.  And for consumers who actually desire to opt-out of online behavioral ads, the DAA offers a user-friendly and effective tool for exercising that choice.

The Carnegie Mellon study is not only misrepresentative of the DAA Program and the larger OBA universe, but also predicated on the mistaken notion that consumers are pre-disposed (like the researchers themselves, apparently) to “opt-out” or “limit” online behavioral advertising they receive. The very title of the survey itself underscores this startling bias.

While it may be easy and convenient to create such scenarios and confusion in a laboratory, the DAA remains committed to delivering meaningful transparency and control to consumers in the real world.


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