Facebook Agrees to Integrate AdChoices Icon Into Online Behavioral Advertising Progra

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Facebook Inc. agreed to permit advertisers to include the AdChoices icon in online behavioral advertising (OBA) displayed using the Facebook Exchange program, according to a Feb. 4 decision from the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program of the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (In re Facebook Inc.,Better Bus. Bureaus Adver. Self-Regulatory Council, No. 19-2012, 2/4/13).

The social networking giant recently introduced Facebook Exchange to allow advertisers to display “interest-based ads” on its platform, the decision said. It said that Facebook neither engages in OBA nor shares its users' private information with third parties for advertising purposes.

The council said it analyzed Facebook Exchange in response to a challenge brought by the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program. The decision said the group requested the inquiry to determine whether Facebook Exchange provided enhanced notice and choice to users in accordance with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA Principles).

A coalition of industry associations, including the Council of Better Business Bureaus, released the OBA Principles in July 2009 (8 PVLR 979, 7/6/09).

Transparency Principle Calls for Notice

According to the decision, the OBA transparency principle was central to the case. That guideline calls for an advertising network using OBA to provide “enhanced notice” whenever it collects data for advertising purposes or displays an interest-based ad.

The transparency principle calls for a “clear, meaningful and prominent link” providing notice to the consumer and linking to a web page with an opt-out mechanism, the decision said. It explained that the AdChoices icon, run by the Digital Advertising Alliance, covers about 90 percent of advertising networks.

According to the decision, Facebook said a user could obtain more information from a third-party advertiser on its OBA practices by clicking a gray “x” in the corner of an ad and selecting “About this ad.” Users would then be directed to the advertiser's page, which would provide a description of its OBA practices and offer an opt-out mechanism.

As a result of the discussion with the accountability program, however, Facebook said it would start permitting third-party advertisers to display the AdChoices icon. “Facebook recognizes that use of the AdChoices Icon by [demand-side platforms] would provide more robust notice and choice to consumers and improve their understanding of OBA and how [Facebook Exchange] works,” the decision said.

Users would still need to select the gray “x” in the corner of a Facebook ad to see the AdChoices icon, according to the decision. The icon would be displayed next to the “About this ad” text in the drop-down menu generated by selecting the “x.”

The decision added that Facebook also agreed to change the displayed text when a cursor hovers over the grey “x” from “Report this ad” to “a more descriptive ph[r]ase, such as 'Learn about Facebook ads.' ”

The social networking company promised to implement the change by the end of the first quarter of 2013, the decision said.

Full text of the Facebook ruling is available at http://op.bna.com/tpif.nsf/r?Open=mlon-94nsxk.

The “Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising” are available at http://www.iab.net/media/file/ven-principles-07-01-09.pdf.

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