Twitter has clearly taken pains to address user privacy, but the
fact that it's not placing the little blue triangle on its
retargeted ads raises questions. (Those ads are still few and far
between, since the product is in a limited beta with three ad-tech
partners that enable the anonymized data matching.) Can the
self-regulatory program be effective when a big and growing
publisher of display ads like Twitter ignores it? And will the
program fade into irrelevance as tech companies seek to put their
own stamp on protecting user privacy?
Far more people enable "Do Not Track" in their browsers than opt
out of behavioral ads via the so-called "AdChoices" icon, observed
Jim Brock, VP-privacy products at AVG Technologies. Because of
that, he thinks Twitter and, now,
Pinterest's pledge to recognize the "Do Not Track" browser
setting is potentially more valuable to consumers than the blue
"Maybe these companies are getting on board with the movement
that matters," he said.
Asked whether it would start using the "AdChoices" icon, Twitter
provided this statement through a spokesman: "We've put
transparency and user choice at the forefront of our tailored ads
offering. Users who wish to opt out can do so right in their
account settings, just one click away from every page on
'AdChoices' in Practice
Developed by the Digital Advertising Alliance, a consortium of ad
trade groups, the "AdChoices" icon was designed in large part to
stave off government interference and legislation that would
prescribe data collection practices. The notion is that its
presence in the corner of a display ad tips consumers who care
about online privacy to the fact that it's been targeted using
third-party data. By clicking on it, they can opt out of
behaviorally targeted ads from a cross-section of DSPs and ad
exchanges, which give them a choice about how the data being
gathered about them is used.
Another notable straggler in adopting the icon was Facebook.
placing the icon on FBX ads in February, five months after the
launch of its exchange. Facebook is now in compliance, but it's
noteworthy that opt-out from FBX ads requires considerably more
effort than it takes to opt out of Twitter ads using third-party
data. There's no Facebook account setting to opt out altogether;
instead, a user must click through to the AdChoices icon within
several FBX ads to go to the relevant ad-tech vendor's page, and
opt out one at a time.
The consequences of failing to comply with the self-regulatory
program for a publisher, agency or ad-tech vendor are nebulous.
However, the body charged with policing compliance, the Online
Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, has taken a few
actions, including work with Facebook on making FBX compliant. Last
fall it called out Kia, its agency and vendors for
failure to place the icon. But the action was essentially limited
to public chastisement; there was no financial penalty.
A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the program is
considering action against Twitter, noting that it doesn't weigh in
on issues that could be in its jurisdiction.
Are Native Ads Different?
There also might be a perception in the market that Twitter and
other publishers that develop native-ad solutions don't need to
adopt the AdChoices program to the letter.
Mindshare's chief strategy officer Jordan
Bitterman thinks that for native ads a better solution than the
little blue triangle would be to allow people to opt out of
behaviorally targeted ads at the site level -- and to make that
choice conspicuous in the site's terms of service. But he
acknowledged that might not go far enough for some.
"AdChoices started as a solution for banner ads when native
advertising was still just a glimmer in our eye. One might argue
that an AdChoices logo tagged in a tweet is not the right solution
for that platform," Mr. Bitterman said in an email. "The logo would
be everywhere, which would be a poor user experience to say the