Behavioral Targeting’s Future: Known and Unknown


questionmark_smallADOTAS – The last few months have been eventful for those following ad targeting and consumer privacy. Here’s my list of things that we have now learned (and some we haven’t) about the emerging “self-regulatory” framework.

What We Know:

A verifiable do-not-track choice is now “table stakes” if you’re making browsers. Microsoft had less to lose by upping the ante. It’s hard to see how Firefox and Chrome not following in some way.

In-ad notices will soon be on all ads touched by top-tier tracking companies, even when not behavioral. It’s too much trouble to differentiate when 80% are interest-based.

Browser-based “Do Not Track” will be accessible from the new notices in ads and website footers. How can that choice not be presented, in a consumer-friendly process?

Many websites need to add notices, too. The Forward I icon in ads doesn’t cover all networks or collection activities like retargeting.

What We Don’t

What kind of back-end oversight suffices for self-regulation? Independent audits or industry compliance reviews?

Will Apple and Google police tracking privacy on mobile applications? Since they’re the only ones in a position to make it happen.

How will Google implement the DAA requirements? Will they adopt the icon? Will they police the participants in their big data exchange?

How many people will actually choose do-not track? Gallup says more than 70% want it; Better Advertising says less than 1% choose it. The economic impact may be significant.


  1. I still say behavioral targeting’s bad press is due to a lack of marketing. Zuck should have been first to invest in some pro-behavioral ads that clearly showed how consumers benefit from this technology vs. letting everyone run scared. These sites are indeed free!

    On the other hand, there isn’t any evidence any industry will self-regulate so there has to be a boundary somewhere.

  2. This will be like food nutrition label laws – at first the vendors can’t imagine it, then it ends up where no one can image a world without it and most people ignore it. When cigarette ads had to include the WARNING label it seemed outrageous, now no on cares and consumers ignore them (same for music advisory labeling).
    users will not look at ads, so how many are going to bother to interact to change prefs? <1%.


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