Regulation of the distribution of content via the Internet as well as targeted online advertising has been making headlines lately. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are considering legislation to stop online piracy but their efforts were met with highly visible protests by key industry players like Wikipedia last week. Similarly, bills circulating in Congress that propose to regulate targeted advertising are also facing strong headwinds.
Not surprisingly, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is hoping to help the online industry find its own way to self-regulate targeted advertising. If the federal government comes up with a solution, the IAB’s General Counsel, Mark Zaneis, fears that "unintended consequences” will result. The initial attempt by legislators to implement what they call a “Do Not Track” mechanism was all about prompting providers of browsers to offer a ‘do not track’ option to consumers.
In response, key industry players have come up with a solution they call aboutads.info. As a result of this initiative, consumers can learn how to opt-out of some of the behavioral ads that are served to them. Marketers can signal their participation in this voluntary program by registering to use a common icon which appears on consumer browser pages. Marketers are also being encouraged to inform consumers about their data practices by posting clear and specific notices.
As the debate regarding targeted advertising continues, more local publishers have been benefiting from selling targeted display spots. According to Borrell Associates, about 45% of local and social display ads are based on targeting. To continue the rapid growth in this area, Zaneis believes that industry self-regulation is key. He indicates that up to 95% of “advertising networks and online behavioral analysts participate in the [current] program.” If the self-regulation proves successful, industry operators may be able to fend off Congressional attempts to control what happens both on and off the browser page.[Source: Dengler, Brian. IAB Counsel: Push to Regulate Online Ads May Lose Traction. Streetfightmag.com. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 23 Jan. 2012]