Hollywood Reporter and Varick Media Implement Accountability Program’s Recommendations

Companies Provide Consumers with Just-In-Time Notice and Choice About Interest-Based Advertising

Arlington, VA. – Jan. 14,  2016 – The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program has resolved formal inquiries into the digital privacy practices of a web publisher, the Hollywood Reporter, and an agency trading desk, Varick Media Management. Both companies swiftly implemented the Accountability Program’s recommendations for compliance with the requirements of the Digital Advertising Alliance’s Self-Regulatory Principles which govern the AdChoices program.

Today’s decisions provide a roadmap of how the advertising industry’s AdChoices program works to put consumers in control of interest-based advertising, or “IBA.” As the Accountability Program explains:

  • All interest-based ads must alert consumers that the ad is based on their prior web browsing. The AdChoices Icon in the ad provides the alert.When a consumer clicks on the AdChoices     Icon, she is taken to a short description of IBA and an opt-out link. This real-time alert is termed “enhanced notice.”
  • Every web page where companies are collecting consumers’ data for IBA must alert consumers to the collection. The enhanced notice alert, which is often located on the webpage near the Privacy Policy link, may use the AdChoices Icon or similar clear language about IBA. When a consumer clicks on the link, she is taken to a short explanation of IBA and an opt out.
  • Consumers must have an easy-to-use choice mechanism. To facilitate consumer choice, the DAA—which developed the AdChoices program with industry leaders—provides a consumer choice page to give consumers control over IBA from the over 120 companies listed on the page with one click.

Genie Barton, Council of Better Business Bureaus VP and Director of the Accountability Program stated: “IBA involves a complex supply chain. The DAA Principles cover all companies in this supply chain and place responsibility on them to ensure that consumers receive notice and choice, however complex the ad serving chain may be. The Accountability Program works to help companies understand and comply with their obligations. We are proud to support consumer choice both through our independent monitoring and by investigation of consumer complaints.”

Hollywood Reporter: The Hollywood Reporter case arose from the Accountability Program’s work on native advertising. The Accountability Program found an IBA-based content recommendation widget on the Hollywood Reporter’s website. However, neither the third party serving the IBA, Gravity, nor Hollywood Reporter, the first party on whose website the IBA appeared, was providing an enhanced notice link. Consumers therefore had no enhanced notice to alert them that the sponsored content recommendations were based on their prior web browsing and link them from the text of the notice to an opt-out mechanism. The Accountability Program further noted that Hollywood Reporter was not providing consumers with enhanced notice that other third parties were collecting data across the Hollywood Reporter website. The Hollywood Reporter adopted the Accountability Program’s recommendations that it provide notice and choice about the IBA activity on its website.

Varick Media Management: The Accountability Program’s review of Varick arose from a consumer complaint that the link from Varick’s in-ad AdChoices Icon failed to work. The Accountability Program determined that in addition to this problem, it was impossible to opt out of Varick’s IBA practices. Varick’s vendor-provided enhanced notice and opt-out solutions were inaccurate or outdated, resulting in non-functional disclosure links. Therefore, Varick’s written notices of its IBA practices—both as a third party engaged in IBA on other websites and as a first party allowing non-affiliates to collect data on its own website—were not readily accessible. Varick implemented the Accountability Program’s recommendations and rectified the broken and missing links, as well as making other improvements.

Finally, the Accountability Program administratively closed its inquiry into Grooveshark’s IBA after a legal settlement rendered the investigation moot.

Today’s releases mark the 63rd public action taken by the Accountability Program.