Online Behavioural Advertising: IAB Good Practice Principles

March 4, 2009

Ten leading operators in the field of behavioural advertising have signed up to ‘The Good Practice Principles; established by the IAB, a trade body operating in the area. The stated aim is ‘to empower consumers and give them information and choices about behavioural advertising’.

The IAB claims that the principles are supported by the ICO. An ICO spokesperson said: ‘We are pleased that online advertising industry has come together to produce these guidelines. Given the understandable concerns of consumers about the extent to which their online activity is monitored and the importance of consumer trust, a joined-up approach to promoting transparency choice, and education makes good sense’.

Research conducted by the IAB found that 85% of consumers would rather have free content on the Internet with advertising on Web sites, rather than pay a premium not to have advertising. 50% of those Internet users surveyed would prefer to receive advertising that is relevant to them, whereas only 9% would not. (The IAB has not published the text of the questions.)

The Good Practice Principles set out commitments to transparency, user choice and education. All companies that sign up to the Principles have six months to comply with three core commitments:
  Notice – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising – such as a website publisher, ad network or technology company – must clearly inform a consumer that data is being collected and used for this purpose.

  Choice – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide a mechanism for users to decline behavioural advertising and where applicable seek a consumer’s consent (where data protection law or specific regulatory guidance applies).

  Education – a company collecting and using online data for behavioural advertising must provide consumers with clear and simple information about their use of data for this purpose and how users can decline.

A full list of companies signed-up to the Principles can be found below, and signatories will have to comply within six months. During this time the IAB will develop policies and procedures – including a suitable independent element – for managing compliance and handling valid complaints from consumers.

Nick Stringer, head of regulatory affairs at the IAB, said: ‘The online advertising industry is committed to protecting privacy and the IAB has a proven track record in self-regulation. The Good Practice Principles are a UK first, setting new standards in privacy and illustrating the proactive nature of the IAB and its members. Underpinned by our consumer information website,, these are significant developments in offering people greater transparency and choice regarding behavioural advertising.’

To access the Good Practice Principles,  go to

The companies currently signed-up to the IAB Good Practice Principles are AOL, AudienceScience, Google, Microsoft Advertising, NebuAd, Phorm , Platform A, Specific Media, Wunderloop, Yahoo! SARL.