BT's Official Self-Regulation Proposal

Josh GordonAfter much speculation, the proposed standards of self-regulation for behavioral targeting have finally been announced. You may remember that I commented on this exact topic at the end of 2008, concluding that however the industry determines it should be regulated, the two different types of behavioral targeting must be treated differently.

DM News' Dianna Dilworth has an excellent recounting of the response from various players in the online marketing space that employ behavioral targeting technologies.

This is a well-organized effort that includes major BT users like Facebook announcing their willingness to adopt these new best practices.

The Seven Best Practices for Behavioral Targeting are as follows:

  • The Education Principle
  • The Transparency Principle
  • The Consumer Control Principle
  • The Data Security Principle
  • The Material Changes Principle
  • The Sensitive Data Principle
  • The Accountability Principle

Regarding the ongoing discourse in Congress about behavioral targeting and its infringement on consumer privacy, the Federal Trade Commission has already responded positively to the proposed self-regulation. Perhaps it is logical to conclude that the contentious nature of the debate within the Capital will simmer now that the industry has taken it upon themselves to be their own watchdog.

While the evolving debate is certainly advancing the industry as a whole, there is a continued failure to distinguish between the two types of behavioral targeting as these privacy best practices are announced. It is reasonable that the first round of standards released should deal with the most prevalent “squeaky wheels;” however, the majority of these principles apply only to network behavioral targeting (affiliates) while onsite targeting is simply lumped in with the holistic definition of “behavioral targeting.” Unless measures are taken to ensure rules are tailored to each specific form of behavioral targeting, onsite targeting – complete with personalization and website message relevance tools that make it so effective – could be subjected to a set of standards that do not apply.

In general, more transparency for the consumer is a valuable, worthwhile goal all marketing should strive toward. More control for shoppers and more accountability for companies – it’s a win-win. But, before we label the entire forest, we must remember that not all trees are alike.

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