DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Online Behavioral Advertising Compliance

General Online Ads:

Advertising seeks to target the right products to the right audience, and makes possible low-or no-cost content and services. Most online ads aren’t matched to you as an individual, but to data categories — such as demographics, interest groups, or location. The web sites you visit work with online advertising companies to provide you with advertising that is as relevant and useful as possible, and the ads are placed according to this criteria.

Interest-Based Online Ads: What is online behavioral advertising?

Online behavioral advertising — which is also sometimes called “interest-based advertising” — uses information collected across multiple web sites that you visit in order to predict your preferences and to show you ads that are most likely to be of interest to you. Many companies engaged in OBA will indicate their adherence to ethical best practices for OBA by providing an Advertising Icon OBA to indicate their participation in the self-regulatory program and should be responsive to your concerns and choice requests. The Icon will also be labeled — Ad Choices.

The self-regulatory program requires the participants to:

  • Be transparent about its data collection and use practices associated with OBA, providing you with a clear, meaningful and prominent notice about the practices through a privacy policy and an enhanced notice policy that is specific to OBA. Did you see/review these notices?
  • Provide you with consumer control over whether data is collected and used or transferred to third parties for OBA purposes through use of a consumer choice mechanism that you can use to opt-out of such activity by the organization. Were you able to opt-out easily?
  • Obtain your consent before a material change is made to its practices regarding OBA data collection and use policies, limiting the collection of sensitive data. What is the policy stated by the company regarding use of sensitive data (such as health, financial information)?

If you have not already done so, please visit aboutads.info to learn more about OBA, compliance principles and the opt-out choices you can make for OBA ads.

What about data used across sites or served on mobile devices?

Effective September 1, 2015 companies that collect and use data across sites or apps for interest-based advertising (IBA) will be required to comply with DAA’s Principles in the mobile environment (i.e. DAA Mobile Guidance). These principles will apply to precise location data, personal directory data and cross-app data, and build upon the effective self-regulation program led by DMA for over six decades. With the incredible growth in the mobile channel, this will affect most of us in the data-driven community.

This guidance exists for companies to comply as devices and channels evolve with technology. By entering into the mobile space, DMA is able to register consumer complaints and reflect potential mobile complaints. This creates a stronger self-regulatory system that is able to catch potential bad actors sooner.

Key to the DAA’s Mobile Guidance are the mobile choice opt-out page and the DAA’s mobile app (available on the Apple Store, Google Play, and Amazon’s Appstore). These are the consumer facing tools for the mobile guidance, providing the transparency and choice that comes with industry self-regulation.

At DMA, we both develop principles and ensure their enforcement. Key to this enforcement is a collaborative partnership with marketers that ensures they are educated and following best practices. To continue this partnership, I offer you a few points to ensure compliance with these guidelines:

Be aware and report non-compliant ads: With our enforcement being complaint-based, many of the best tips on non-compliance have come from within our industry. As your team works to come into compliance with the new guidelines, we encourage you to watch the ads you are presented on your phone or tablet to ensure they are compliant as well.

Study up and stay informed: Between July 2013 and December 2014, 85% percent of complaints received by DMA were resolved in the initial stages, through educating either consumers or marketers about the guidelines and the consumer choice available. Since releasing the DAA mobile guidance earlier this summer, DMA has conducted a webinar for members and written a number of blogs and columns to educate on the mobile guidelines. If you still have any questions or concerns, DMA is available to answer any questions.

Raise your hand and ask: Our investigative casework enhances the marketing industry and helps marketers protect and nurture the trust their customers give. To provide clarity and consistency with these guidelines, DMA is happy to answer any questions you may have. If you have any additional concerns or questions about this or any of DMA’s self-regulatory guidelines, I encourage you to email ethics@thedma.org and we are happy to assist you.

Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) Ethics Complaint

OBA_IconThe DMA’s Committee on Ethical Business Practice is interested in hearing from you if you believe an online behavioral advertising practice is questionable.

To submit a potential case for Committee review, complete the form below. Be sure to provide a copy of the promotion, an example or description of the practice that is of concern. We will review the issues you have raised to determine if your concerns warrant a formal ethics investigation. In some cases, the issues can be resolved without Committee action.

We will not be able to review a matter without supporting documentation in hard copy or via email proof (see bottom of page for mailing address and contact information).

Thank you for your assistance with this important self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising! Please Note: If, after review, the Committee believes there are potential violations of the Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice specific to Online Behavioral Advertising, the organization will be contacted and asked to revise or discontinue the promotion and/or practice. The case handling process is confidential. Names of companies under review are not released publicly unless the issues are not resolved, or DMA’s records become the subject of legal process.

File an Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) Ethics Complaint

Guide for Complying with DMA's OBA Guidelines
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