WFA participates in EU Commission roundtable on Interest Based Advertising

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22/12/2010
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Summary of 1st and 2nd Roundtable meetings, 16 December 2010 & 9 March 2011

Date: 11/03/2011

The second meeting of the European Commission's roundtable on interest based advertising (IBA), also known as online behavioural advertising (OBA), took place on 9 March. This roundtable, chaired by the Director General of the Commission's DG Information Society Robert Madelin, served as an opportunity for the industry to present progress following the 1st roundtable on 16 December, to discuss how feedback received from the NGOs would be addressed, and to set out next steps.

The Commission made some specific requests in order that industry provides greater clarity in the wording of the self-regulatory requirements, especially with regard to the mandatory use of the icon in OBA. It also called for enhancing the robustness of the processes underpinning the self-regulatory system, such as organised monitoring and reporting.

A number of NGOs, including UK consumer organisation Which? and the World Privacy Forum, had provided constructive feedback on strengthening the industry's initiative following the 1st roundtable, notably in terms of the presentation and operation of the consumer control tools, the clarity of the rules and the system to enforce these rules.

Several conditions were set out as determining factors for success:

1. There needs to be high take-up of a universal icon. This must be present in (or very close to) the advertisement. Anything else would be regarded as non-compliance. The wording of the self-regulatory rules needs to be 100% clear that use of the icon is mandatory, not "nice to have".

2. Effective monitoring, inspection and reporting of the implementation and compliance are essential.

3. Strong independent governance of the system (both technical implementation and at SRO level in terms of complaints handling) needs to be in place.

The industry, led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) explained how these conditions would be addressed, in partnership with the Commission and non-industry stakeholders, and confirmed that public progress reports would be submitted regularly ahead of a formal review by the end of 2011.
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Date: 22/12/2010

The European Commission today held its multi-stakeholder roundtable on interest based advertising (IBA), also known as online behavioural advertising (OBA). It was hosted by the Commission's Directorate General for Information Society (INFSO) and chaired by its Director General Robert Madelin.

The roundtable gathered representatives of the ICT, media and advertising sectors as well as consumer and privacy organizations. It was set up as an opportunity for the industry to present the self-regulatory framework for IBA designed by WFA and its ad industry partners, aimed at framing the responsible development of IBA and countering pressure to introduce opt-in rules for cookies/IBA.

WFA received some clear political support from Robert Madelin for our approach, which he indicated had also the full support of his Commissioner. Mr. Madelin made it clear from the outset that he regarded the EASA system as robust and effective.

Equally importantly, Mr. Madelin made it clear to the consumer and privacy advocates that the Commission was beyond the stage of a 'philosophical' discussion of the definition of consent. Rather, stakeholders were convened to examine proposals from the industry for a proportionate solution.

The main criticisms of the industry's self-regulatory system were as follows:

- On the act of and timing of giving consent the consumer/privacy groups argued that the default setting in the consumer control tool presented by the industry should be set to "off" instead of "on". We should reverse the default until a consumer chooses to be tracked - effectively moving to an opt-in approach. In their opinion this would ensure the self-regulatory approach was consistent with the law and the Recommendations of the Article 29 Working Party.
- There was criticism of the "one-sided" messages on about IBA on the consumer control page and other communication tools, which omit to say anything about how and what data is collected, how it is used, how long it is kept, what implications there may be for privacy etc. There was also some criticism around the language we use on the consumer control page, and the choice of the words for the link next to the icon ("AdChoices") which some felt didn't really describe OBA or prompt consumers to click on the icon.

In the discussion, Mr. Madelin said that our "on" default was consistent with his Commissioner's views. He made it clear that he was favouring "proportionate" business and consumer-friendly solutions and that they were under no obligation to follow the "self-tasking" own initiative opinion and recommendations of the Article 29 Working Party.

He repeatedly said that the Barroso II Commission had a clear mandate to move away from "nanny state" thinking and encourage a more dynamic, innovative digital economy in order to support growth, job creation etc.

Next steps:
Consumer and privacy groups have been invited to submit more detailed comments on the self-regulatory proposals, and the consumer control page in particular, over the coming month. Mr. Madelin also called on all stakeholders to let the Commission know how they might be prepared to help build awareness among consumers about IBA and how they can exercise control.

The Commission has tentatively set 8 March as a date for a follow-up meeting of the roundtable.

WFA is working with industry partners to identify some positive and achievable goals for strengthening the self-regulatory "package" over the next 3 months. For further information please contact Malte Lohan m.lohan@wfanet.org


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