Yielding to pressure from advertisers, ad agencies, the media, consumers, and, perhaps, the FTC, Facebook has agreed to place The Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) “AdChoices” logo on ads served on its site via its FBX ad exchange. The move makes Facebook more accountable for educating users about online behavioral advertising and allowing them to opt-out.
The AdChoices icon alerts users when an ad has been placed on their screen based on behavioral-targeting methods. When clicked, the icon takes the user to an informational page that allows the user to learn more about targeted marketing and to opt-out of such advertising. The industry has promoted the opt-out, understanding that information such as products viewed online by users, who their friends and connections are on Facebook and Twitter, which websites they have visited, and relevant search history, while not historically defined as “personally identifiable” is nonetheless very private, and very valuable.
The Council of Better Business Bureau’s Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability program has lauded the move, finding in a recent decision that it is “a meaningful step in increasing transparency and choice.” However, the change, which Facebook has said will take place by the end of the current quarter, is not as transparent as some would like, and it remains to be seen whether it complies with the FTC’s “clear and prominent notice,” standard. The social media giant has only committed to displaying the AdChoices logo when a user hovers over the ad with the mouse and then hovers over the grey “x” that appears. This unconventional display of the icon, which usually appears on the ad regardless of whether the user hovers over the ad, was approved by the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability program.
Facebook users are accustomed to clicking on the “About this ad,” link to find information about online behavioral advertising methods. The text of this link, while not fully descriptive, indicates to the user that something might be going on behind the scenes that they might want to check out. By agreeing to participate in the DAA’s program, Facebook is adding something new to its current practice of informing consumers about advertising: accountability.
Facebook’s voluntary agreement to participate in the program means that the social networking site will now be subjected to compliance reviews and scrutiny by the entities that enforce the AdChoices program. Facebook’s participation also increases the icon’s visibility, which in turn can help to make more consumers aware of their choices to receive targeted advertising. Such increase in visibility is also due to the use of the icon in the mobile space, which began last August and was covered in a previous Reed Smith blog post.
In contrast with this self-regulatory approach, Blackberry has just announced what it touts as a technology-driven solution to the consumer choice conundrum in the mobile and web environments. Please click here to read about Blackberry’s announcement on our sister blog, Global Regulatory Enforcement Law Blog.