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Think BR: How to comply with the ePrivacy Directive

Businesses should think about adapting their advertising and operations as a result of the newly introduced ePrivacy Directive, writes Stuart Colman, European MD of AudienceScience.

Stuart Colman, European MD of AudienceScience and chair of the IAB's behavioural targeting council

Stuart Colman, European MD of AudienceScience and chair of the IAB's behavioural targeting council

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The latest amendment to the ePrivacy Directive came into force on 25 May and many publishers, advertisers and media buyers are getting to grips with what this means for their business.

Most importantly, what impact will it have on how they use cookies and online data to deliver highly targeted advertising?

For today’s marketers, cookies have become pivotal, allowing them to gather anonymous information on user’s web viewing behaviour, to drive highly personalised and relevant advertising.

However, concerns over privacy issues have resulted in the European Commission introducing the revised ePrivacy Directive.

The new law is designed to create a transparent environment for consumers and states users must be "provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of, the storage of, or access to, that information" and "has given his or her consent".

The wording has sparked much debate (and confusion) in the industry and raised a number of questions.

However, the key areas to note are:

  • The UK government has confirmed their application of the directive is to be "light touch, business friendly"

  • It has stipulated that ‘consent’ means ‘informed consent’ and not ‘prior consent’. This means there will be an opt-out approach rather than an opt-in regime

  • A period of grace has been given to allow businesses adequate time to understand the law and prepare for its enforcement

  • The government supports the approach the industry has developed to address the new law.

So what has the industry done?

It is widely recognised that industry self-regulation is the preferred route to address the law and protect the £4bn online advertising industry.

And in response to the directive, IAB Europe has introduced a self regulation framework for online behavioural advertising (OBA) to address the legislation. The framework introduces seven principles:

  1. Notice

  2. User Choice

  3. Data Security

  4. Sensitive Segmentation

  5. Education

  6. Compliance and Enforcement

  7. Review

The framework sees the introduction of the enhanced notice icon which will need to be shown on or near any online advert that has used behavioural targeting, or when third parties are collecting data on a website. 

By clicking on it, users will be able to see a clear notice describing data collection and usage, and also a link to the new site www.youronlinechoices.eu to manage their privacy preferences.

The industry has agreed that 80% of behaviourally targeted online ads in the UK and Europe will carry the icon by June 2012. 

The plan is to set up a European self-regulatory body to license the icon, equivalent to the Digital Advertising Alliance in the US.

What can UK business do to comply with the new regulations?

Educate and promote user choice

Be transparent about how you collect, use and store data.

Many of the concerns of consumers stem from the fact they don’t know what is going on.

Provide your consumers with easy to understand information on how to delete, control or limit cookies and include a link to www.youronlinechoises.eu.  

Be aware of data security and act responsibly

Ensure you are using your data responsibly and have appropriate safeguards in place for the collection, control and storage of data for targeting.

Be aware of all cookies used within your website and recognise that the regulation has obligations for both publishers and third parties engaged in OBA.

Don’t target sensitive segments

You should not build segments that target children (aged 12 or under) and segments built on sensitive data (eg, health related) will require the user’s explicit (given) consent.

Comply now and start using the enhanced notice icon

Users of behavioural targeting should sign up to the self-regulatory programme.

Although not everything is ironed out around the icon, a version is currently available to test for free on websites and in/around behaviourally targeted ads.

One measure of the success of self-regulation to the EU Commission will be around the use and recognition of the icon.

The sooner companies across the industry use it the better.

And for those who don’t comply?

IAB Europe plans to introduce a system to independently monitor third party compliance across Europe.

This will potentially be backed up by a new trading seal, designed to provide the market with confidence in who they are working with.

Sanctions could also be introduced by the Advertising Standards Authority to deal with complaints and non-compliance.

The aim of the directive is right for our time - to enhance transparency, user control and protect consumer privacy by putting them in control.

Self-regulation is an important stage in our industry’s development and will enhance the way we deliver behavioural advertising, how we collect and store data and, most importantly, will encourage consumer confidence. 

We should see it as an opportunity to enhance what we do, rewrite the industry’s relationship with the public and create a new dimension in targeted advertising.

Stuart Colman, European MD of AudienceScience and chair of the IAB's behavioural targeting council

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