BBB Watchdog Cites Five On-Line Companies for Failing to Adhere to Enhanced Notice of Third-Party Data Collection for Online Behavioral Advertising

By Jennifer Daniels

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This week, the Online Internet-Based Advertising Accountability Program, a unit of the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”), released five decisions in which Answers Corporation, Best Buy, BuzzFeed, Go.com, and Yelp agreed to provide real-time “enhanced” notice and choice to website users whenever non-affiliates collect their information for personalizing ads.

A year ago, the BBB’s privacy watchdog issued a compliance warning that publishers must implement the transparency and consumer control requirements of the self-regulatory principles for online behavioral advertising (“OBA Principles”), or face a public compliance action. “Enhanced notice” requires companies to add a separate link that takes users directly to a site where they can opt out of receiving behaviorally targeted ads. The link itself generally appears beneath text like “Interest-based ads,” “About our ads,” or “AdChoices.”

Under the OBA Principles, including an opt-out mechanism in a privacy policy is not sufficient. Rather, the notice and choice must be provided at the time that information is being collected from consumers.  The OBA Principles apply to all segments of the advertising industry, from website publishers to third-party ad networks. The BBB and the Direct Marketing Association (“DMA”) coordinate to enforce the self-regulatory program by monitoring participating companies for program compliance, investigating, and reporting potentially non-compliant companies to appropriate regulatory agencies.

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