Behavioural ads to be regulated by ASA “within a year”

Behavioural advertising, the practice of taking data from consumers’ computers to help develop targeted online advertising, will be subject to regulatory scrutiny for the first time by April next year.

It has been confirmed that the Advertising Standards Authority will handle complaints about the commonly used targeting technique as part of a self-regulatory framework that the ad industry hopes will satisfy European regulators concerned that the tool compromises users’ privacy.

New legislation is to be introduced by the European Union on 25 May that requires them to gain consent from consumers to collect information.

From today (14 April), an icon by or in display ads that use behavioural targeting will start to appear. The icon will offer information about online behavioural advertising and offer consumers a chance to opt-out.

Best practice guidelines for ad networks have also been introduced today. These guidelines, developed by the European Internet Advertising Bureau, also see the introduction of a new consumer website, youronlinechoices.eu, which provides information on what users can do to opt out of being targeted.

The ASA will step in if consumers opt out but it is proved that the data collected is still used or if there is concern that the icon is not prominently displayed. Behavioural advertising that is found to target under 12s will also be subject to scrutiny.

Existing ad rules will be amended and new ones could be added to the Committee of Advertising Practise’s code of practise, which the ASA uses to judge complaints.

Advertising Association chief executive Tim Lefroy says: “If we can bring online behavioural advertising under the auspices of the ASA, it will give people the necessary reassurance that their privacy is safely covered by a known and trusted regulator.”

The European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), the continent-wide self-regulatory body of which the ASA is a member, has told the European Commission that the opt-out system will be implemented in at least 70% of all EASA self-regulatory organisations within a year. It is thought that the ASA will be among them.

It is understood that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is set to issue its own guidelines on meeting the EU directive shortly.

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