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IAB produces guidelines on behavioural targeting

LONDON - Internet giants including Google and Microsoft have signed up to a new set of guidelines from the IAB on behavioural targeting, which were today backed by Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards and the Information Commissioner's Office.

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The Good Practice Principles, developed by the IAB in collaboration with 10 companies including AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Phorm, are designed to promote transparency and user choice and help consumers understand behavioural ads.

AOL and Yahoo! have also pledged to abide by the guidelines –- the first of their kind -- which claim to "empower" consumers.

A consumer information website, www.youronlinechoices.co.uk, allows people to find out how behavioural advertising works, how it benefits them, how their privacy is protected and how they can decline this type of advertising.

The Principles agree on three core commitments: Notice -- this says a company collecting and using online data must clearly inform a consumer that data is being collected and used for that purpose; Choice, which says the company must provide an opt-out option for users to decline behavioural ads; and Education, which says the company must let consumers know exactly how the information is being used and how they can opt out.

Phil Jones, assistant commissioner at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is supporting the initiative, said the ICO was "pleased that the online advertising industry has come together to produce these guidelines".

He said: "Given the understandable concerns of consumers about the extent to which their online activity is monitored and the importance of consumer trust, a joined-up approach to promoting transparency, choice and education makes good sense."

Speaking this morning at ISBA's annual conference, Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, welcomed the IAB's new code and urged ISPs to get behind it.

Richards said: "Targeted advertising has much potential, and done sensibly and with consent from the user could create huge value for advertisers and ISPs."

He added that there was evidence that consumers are attracted to advertising that is  tailored to their preferences but the adverse publicity around Phorm's trials last year was "unfortunate".

He welcomed self-regulation and stressed that Ofcom was doing its best to ensure progress in encouraging ISPs to sign up to the code.

Also speaking at the ISBA conference, IAB chairman Richard Eyre described behavioural targeting as "a game changer for advertisers ... but it is easier to attack than defend".

Eyre said that serving ads to internet users through behavioural targeting "is not an infringement of my [consumer] rights". He said the internet advertising industry must "find an approach that won't get bombed out by privacy zealots ...and get the rules sorted".
    
Eyre said: "Every media company here earns online revenues. We must now deliver self regulation [because] Andy Burnham will want to slap statutory regulation on the internet."

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