ONLINE INTEREST-BASED ADVERTISING ACCOUNTABILITY PROGRAM
Case Number: 01-2011
Advertising Accountability Program
November 8, 2011
A company has responsibility to ensure that the mechanisms it employs to fulfill the
Transparency and Consumer Control Principles are fully functional.
QuinStreet, Inc. (QuinStreet or the company) is a vertical marketing and online media
company. QuinStreet engages in the collection and use of data for online behavioral
advertising (OBA) purposes¹ as defined in the cross-industry Self-Regulatory Principles
for Online Behavioral Advertising (Principles):
Online Behavioral Advertising means the collection of data from a
particular computer or device regarding Web viewing behaviors over time
and across non-Affiliate Web sites for the purpose of using such data to
predict user preferences or interests to deliver advertising to that computer
or device based on the preferences or interests inferred from such Web
viewing behaviors. (Principles at 9-10, Definition G.).
OBA PRACTICE AT ISSUE
One of the cornerstones of the Principles is “consumer control.” (Principles at 14,
Principle III.). A third party must provide the consumer with an easy-to-use mechanism
that allows the consumer to exercise choice regarding the collection and use of data from
his or her device for OBA purposes. The practice at issue is whether the company was
providing consumers with choice as required under the Consumer Control Principle.
The obligation of a third party to enable a consumer to exercise choice is explained in the
Principles as follows:
A Third Party should provide consumers with the ability to exercise choice with
respect to the collection and use of data for Online Behavioral Advertising
purposes or the transfer of such data to a non-Affiliate for such purpose. Such
choice should be available from the notice described in II.A.(2)(a); from the
industry-developed Web page(s) as set forth in II.A.2.(b)(i); or from the Third
Party’s disclosure linked to from the page where the Third Party is individually
listed as set forth in II.A.2.(b)(ii). (Principles at 14, III.A.).
BASIS OF INQUIRY
On August 16, 2011, the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program
(Accountability Program) tested the functionality of the consumer choice mechanism
Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari. When using the Firefox browser, the Accountability
Program found that the “OPT OUT NOW” button was missing, therefore, a consumer
could not initiate an opt-out request². Tests conducted with the Chrome, Internet
Explorer and Opera browsers revealed that the “OPT OUT NOW” button appeared as a
broken image. While the opt-out requests using these browsers were processed
successfully, the Accountability Program believes the presence of a broken image could
confuse consumers, thus rendering the mechanism difficult to use. Tests using the Safari
browser found both the “OPT OUT NOW” button to be clearly visible and the opt-out
In response to the Accountability Program’s inquiry, the company acknowledged that the
using the Firefox browser and not properly rendered on the page when using the Chrome,
Internet Explorer and Opera browsers. The company stated that the problem with their
opt-out button was an error on their part and that they did not intend to make it
incompatible with the aforementioned browsers. The company stated that upon receipt of
the notice of inquiry, it took immediate steps to correct the problem and ensure their optout button was properly rendered and functioning across each of the five browsers.
All companies have the obligation to monitor their data collection and advertising
practices to ensure compliance with the Principles, including ensuring that their notice
and choice mechanisms are accessible and fully functional at all times. The
Accountability Program finds that QuinStreet was not compliant with the Consumer
Control Principle because it failed to exercise reasonable care to ensure that its consumer
choice mechanism was functioning properly across commonly used browsers.
Upon notification by the Accountability Program, the company promptly replaced the
opt-out button with an opt-out link that is accessible across Internet browsers. The
Accountability Program has conducted subsequent tests on the opt-out mechanism on all
browsers previously tested and found the link to be active and the opt-out mechanism to
be functioning as required by the Principles.
The Accountability Program’s goal is to ensure that companies engaged in OBA comply
with the Self-Regulatory Principles. The Accountability Program’s monitoring and
complaint processes are designed to identify areas of possible non-compliance, to make
companies aware of potential non-compliance and to work with companies to rectify non-4
compliance. QuinStreet has implemented the Accountability Program’s
recommendations and the practice at issue has been resolved.
We appreciate the Accountability Program bringing this matter to our attention. We did
not intend to provide a link that provided opt out for only one browser and not the other
commonly used browsers. We have now fixed the link to provide opt-out for Safari,
Internet Explorer, Opera, Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
DISPOSITION OF DECISION
Practice voluntarily corrected.