Marketers step up self-regulation practices

The threat of federal consumer privacy regulation has spurred marketers to take online privacy into their own hands. Brands such as and AT&T are trying to stay ahead of proposed universal Do Not Track rules that would allow consumers to control online data collection and monitoring.? introduced a setting on its ?Career Ad Network in January that allows consumers to manage behavioral ad targeting. The ads will contain the industry-promoted “Interest Based Ad” hyperlink that will prompt consumers to change their cookie settings to allow behavioral targeting, receive more relevant ads, or completely opt out of targeting. ?

“Our members create profiles and they’re giving us quite a bit of personal information. We take that as a sign of trust, and it’s important we continue to earn it,” said Tom Chevalier, product manager at and the Career Ad Network platform. He added that he does not think Do Not Track regulation is necessary, but that his company would comply with it if required. ?

However, most companies are fearful of “giving notice, consent and choice to the end user,” said Dennis Dayman, chief privacy ?officer at Eloqua, a marketing automation firm. “If someone decides not to be tracked, that’s fine. Does it mess up our metrics? It might. But, from what we know of people, when we respect their choices and if they know that you’re giving them a choice, they may think twice before leaving you or complaining through Twitter that you’re driving them nuts.” ?

AT&T also began testing transparent online banner ads in 2010. Some websites, such as, also link to the opt-out page of the industry-supported Network Advertising Initiative. The NAI site enables opt outs of ad networks and explains how data collection and tracking work to consumers. ?

“The industry is making a sort of a preemptive strike to stave off regulation and try, if legislation does occur, to have it mimic industry guidelines,” said Dave Frankland, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “The industry has not done a good job of telling consumers about tracking.” ?

Internet browsers, including Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, have also responded to that call by allowing consumers to opt out of advertising cookies. Microsoft has also said that the next version of its ?Internet Explorer Web browser will include a “tracking protection” blocker. ?

Google’s Chrome browser offers an opt-out plug-in for “the vast majority of interest-based and behavioral advertising,” said Rob Shilkin, spokesperson for the company. ?

“We hope it contributes to continuing dialogue about what Do Not Track could look like,” Shilkin adds. ?

The Direct Marketing Association has also started enforcing compliance through the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising. The program calls for members’ ads to include a link to an opt-out button. The DMA said it will censure or suspend noncompliant members that repeatedly ignore warnings, or report them to the FTC.

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