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The NAI Behavioral Advertising Opt-out Mechanism: Good or Bad?

Thanks to rcalo for alerting me to this site. If you have read this blog over the past year, then you know that I have written a lot about behavioral advertising (BA). My interest in BA is partly because some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have attempt to use a form of BA with the Deep packet Inspection (DPI) technology, which goes far beyond the older tracking technologies, like Web browser cookies, which advertisers have traditionally used.

Congress and consumers are right to take a long, hard look at firms using DPI. And, however favorable the FTC's proposed behavioral advertising guidelines are for corporations, those guidelines are not finalized. My interest in BA is not just the consumer privacy concerns, but the data security concerns due to the fact that company data breaches soared in 2008 compared to prior years. Too many companies don't take data security seriously enough. DPI allows companies to collect a lot of inormation more quickly -- and lose it later in a data breach, regardless of their claims about anonymizing the data.

Plus, ISPs play a key role in providing consumers with trustworthy access to the Internet. Even though NebuAd closed last month, Phorm is part of a larger situation where ISPs rush for advertising revenues and abuse consumer privacy.

With all of that as a backdrop, I have mixed feelings about the Network Advertising Iniative (NAI) opt-out site below, since it is predicated on a business model where all consumers are, by default, included. This places the burden on consumers to become BA experts and track which sites they visit use BA with, in order to opt-out effectively. And, opting out is no guarantee since companies can easily include users back in BA with a change in web site privacy and terms of use policies. The whole model should be based with a default where consumers aren't included until they opt-in.

When you use the NAI site to opt-out of BA, it provides a status of the advertiser networks that have already placed a BA Web browser cookie on your computer. For me, I learned that I had active BA cookies from:

  • Atlas
  • AudienceScience
  • BlueLithium
  • Burst Media
  • Collective Media
  • Mindset Media
  • Undertone Netowkrs
  • Yahoo Ad Network, and
  • TACODA Audience Networks

That was far more BA cookies than I thought I had. A thorough check would be to see if any of the sites I have visited regularly mentioned any of these advertiser networks in their privacy and terms policies. I doubt it.

The NAI's BA opt-out mechanism has limitations. First, it won't protect a consumer against DPI. Second, consumers will have to use the BA opt-out mechanism again if you delete the cookies on your computer, change Web browsers, or get a new computer. Given this, the NAI's BA opt-out mechanism is not a true opt-out. Too much burden is still on the consumer, and it is too easy for a consumer to get sucked back into BA again.

If you have used the NAI site below to opt-out of BA, I'd love to hear your experiences. How did you tell if the opt-out worked? Did you see a change in the online ads display at the sites you visited?

When I opted out of pre-screened credit offers and telemarketing calls, it was easy to see the change. The number of pre-screened credit card and loan offers I received via postal surface mail stopped -- period. So too for telemarketing calls; those dropped to zero, too.

So, it's easy for consumers to see and evaluate the effectiveness of opting out of postal surface mail offers. But what about BA? How can a consumer tell if this BA opt-out mechanism works?

Anyway, here's the NAI video:


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Used the NAI-thing.. did all to get rid of slowdowning BA (had unchecked BA button in the AM)but only after optout of 4 'companies' in the NAI things seems to speed up remarkably. Wiped BEFOREhand the cookies,cache and hist. Curious if it "restores" the bad BA slowdown when iwipe all ck' again.think makes no diff (DPI or cloud). Only time lost? "24/7" seems to not react on optout. Afterwards too a new cie had an 'active cookies' in the NAi.

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