Blog

Submitted by Ryan Cliche on July 23, 2014

A blog post by Ryan Cliche, NAI's Chief Operating Officer.

 

 

In its Final Privacy Report issued in 2012, the FTC called upon all stakeholders to expand their efforts to educate consumers about commercial data privacy practices.  FTC staff pointed out that consumers need more education about various data practices so that they can make informed decisions. Specifically, the FTC called for the development of clear and accessible messages that consumers will see and understand.  

At NAI, we couldn’t agree more.  In 2012, we released a new consumer education page that was not merely a collection of education materials designed by various stakeholders, but a set of resources we created working with a professional design and communications team.  The goal was not to simply make materials available to users, but to distill down complex issues into “clear and accessible” content.  Indeed, we worked with a former member of the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education to develop the site because we shared the same vision - consumer education should truly educate. Our hope is that every consumer will be able to make informed choices about online advertising and data collection. Since the launch of the consumer education page, we've had over 3 million page views. 

It’s now 2014. Business models and technology have evolved and there are countless new innovative consumer products and services in the marketplace.  Consumer education is more important than ever.  To meet the call of the FTC, we are launching an initiative to update our consumer education pages to incorporate information about new methods for collecting information, the rapidly-evolving mobile ecosystem, and the introduction of new devices in the marketplace. We have reached out to our membership, and we are convening a working group of company representatives to work on content development and messaging.  Andrew Rausa from Undertone is our first volunteer. We invite any and all stakeholders — not just NAI members — to the table to help us develop accurate, accessible and useful consumer information materials.  

We want to strike the right balance between providing consumers with all of the relevant information they may need and providing so much detail that the materials are no longer useful or meaningful. The FTC is a master at this, and we hope to follow their lead.  Once again, we’ll be working with a professional design and communication team to help us get the message right. We hope to launch the new materials this fall and reach consumers through donated advertising impressions from our members.  

If you are interested in working with us in this effort, please reach out to me at rcliche@networkadvertising.org.

Submitted by Bruce Morris on July 14, 2014

A blog post by Bruce Morris, NAI's VP for Member Services & Business Development.

 

 

If you haven’t noticed, NAI has dramatically changed over the past three years. Since I am a relative newcomer to the organization, I thought our org structure and member benefits were always this way.  However, it’s been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that we have come a long way.

This was most clearly demonstrated to me during a recent meeting with a seasoned, senior digital exec working on his fourth business platform. Although he was familiar with NAI from our start, he had not kept up with all of our growth and development over the years. His comment after our discussion was “WOW! NAI has really re-invented itself and I’m impressed.”

Pam Dixon, Executive Director of World Privacy Forum, recently remarked, “I think the NAI represents a really important step forward for what self-regulation has been, and certainly that has been such a vast improvement from 2007.”

In case you haven’t noticed, or are not a regular reader of our blog, here’s a sampling of our accomplishments and a look at who were are:

  • Over 300% growth in members since 2007
  • 10 full-time staff members, including six attorneys and one senior technology analyst
  • A new office in the Flatiron District in New York City
  • A new Code of Conduct that went into effect January 2014 and a new Mobile Code of Conduct
  • A new education section on our website
  • A new Board of Directors
  • New technical monitoring tools for opt-out links and privacy policies
  • Creation of an Annual Member Summit (sold out last two years)
  • New annual compliance reports on staff and member activity

During our recently held Annual Member Summit, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill praised the work of NAI and our members, stating that "the NAI has been an exceptional leader in the self-regulatory community." She further complimented our efforts, affirming that the NAI has taken steps to go beyond legal requirements to be in the self-regulatory space in a way that is incredibly helpful to us as regulators and, I think, to consumers."

To our members, I hope you are taking advantage of all we have to offer beyond our annual compliance review. To prospective members, NAI offers strong business development and risk mitigation benefits. Contact me to learn how your advertising technology company can become a member, too.

Submitted by NAI on July 10, 2014

An interview with Michael Benedek, President & CEO, Datonics

---

What does Datonics do?

Datonics (www.datonics.com), a member of the AlmondNet Group, is an Internet data marketplace. We offer media-buying and media-sales platforms access to proprietary consumer search, purchase-intent and life-stage data segments. These segments facilitate the delivery of highly relevant, privacy-sensitive ads to consumers on all of their devices. 

 

How long have you been a NAI member? What prompted you to join? Why did Datonics choose to invest tremendous resources in NAI by becoming a Board member?

Privacy has always been and will always be front and center in our business and in our company DNA since the founding of our parent company, AlmondNet (www.almondnet.com) in October 1998. AlmondNet invented and evangelized the concept of incorporating an opt-out in every banner as early as 2004, becoming today’s “Ad Choices Enhanced Notice” initiative. The solution was adopted by the NAI, first with the help of the head of the NAI at the time, Chuck Curran, and followed by the rest of the online advertising industry. In 2011, the AlmondNet Data Division was spun off into Datonics and I joined the NAI board of directors in May 2013. 

Datonics’ goal is to provide consumers with the opportunity to see relevant, privacy-sensitive advertising wherever they go. In working toward this goal, we serve the entire online advertising ecosystem. No organization is more aligned with this goal than the NAI, and it is our absolute pleasure to serve the industry through our active participation as a member of the NAI board.

How does Datonics work with DSPs, DMPs, and other members of the online advertising ecosystem? Do you see that role evolving?

Datonics data is integrated within and leveraged by media-buying and media-sales platforms, including agency trading desks, advertising networks and demand-side platforms (DSPs), for themselves or on behalf of their clients in order to achieve their specific goals for a digital marketing campaign. These goals may include customer acquisition, branding, engagement and ROI/CPM maximization, among others.  

We continually invest in and educate our clients as well as their clients about available data sets and use cases. I expect this process to continue and become even more necessary as we expand our data offering.

How have changes in the privacy landscape spurred changes in your business?

Providing consumers with a positive, relevant and privacy-sensitive experience is essential for ensuring the health and growth of the entire online advertising ecosystem. Maintaining consumer trust is essential for helping marketers reach a receptive audience that is in purchasing mode. Consumer confidence is also critical for data providers, who receive an incremental revenue stream, and for data buyers, who maximize ROI from their media buying and sales activities.

What’s the greatest value that NAI provides to Datonics?

The NAI ensures the health and sustainability of the online advertising ecosystem that is essential for the growth of our business in a rapidly evolving landscape. We’re proud to have a voice in how the NAI helps to set the bar for the way third parties manage consumer privacy. We also greatly appreciate that the NAI helps educate and provide a forum for those in the industry as well as for consumers. We look forward to remaining involved with the NAI for many years to come.

Submitted by Anthony Matyjas... on July 1, 2014

A blog post by Anthony Matyjaszewski, NAI's Counsel & Assistant Director of Compliance.

---

At last month’s 2014 NAI Member Summit, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill praised the NAI for its self-regulatory initiatives in general, and in particular, for its provisions around the use of health information for Interest-Based Advertising (IBA).  She went on to explain that companies’ collection of health information is going to be a “front and center” issue for her and the Commission.  It is no surprise then, that in last month’s FTC report on Data Brokers, the Commission provided additional feedback on health conditions that it may deem to be “potentially sensitive.”  Because this topic is so important to consumers, NAI members, and regulators, we would like to once again touch on the NAI’s approach to the collection and use of health-related data.

 

The 2013 NAI Code of Conduct (Code) definition of “Sensitive Data” in connection with health information includes “precise information about past, present, or potential future health or medical conditions or treatments, including genetic, genomic, and family medical history.”  The collection and use of Sensitive Data for IBA requires Opt-In Consent from consumers.  

The first point of analysis for members, therefore, is whether they are creating a health segment based on either precise information or actual knowledge, that consumers have a particular health condition. If the segment is based on actual knowledge about a health condition of a consumer, such as a survey response or medical record for example, that segment will be Sensitive Data regardless of which health or medical condition the segment refers to.

The commentary accompanying the Code further explains the NAI’s intent. It clarifies that “targeting users on the basis of any presumed interest in, not merely actual knowledge of, precise or sensitive health-related topics requires Opt-In Consent.” The NAI has not developed an exhaustive list of sensitive or precise segments in a field as dynamic as this one.  Instead, we ask members to consider a variety of factors in determining whether a condition is sensitive, while also providing guidance on certain categories of health that NAI staff would consider to be sensitive.  To determine whether a particular health condition is likely to be precise or sensitive, NAI members should consider the “seriousness of the condition, its prevalence, whether it is something that an average person would consider to be particularly private in nature, whether it is treated by over-the-counter or prescription medications, and whether it can be treated by modifications in lifestyle as opposed to medical intervention.”  We go on to explain that “all types of cancer, mental health-related conditions, and sexually transmitted diseases” are examples of conditions that require Opt-In Consent.  Under this analysis, other conditions such as acne, high blood pressure, heartburn, cold and flu, and cholesterol management are not considered to be precise or sensitive by NAI staff. 

As with any subjective category, there may be certain conditions that do not clearly fall on either side of the line of sensitive or precise.  For that reason, the NAI Code also requires members to publicly disclose any standard interest segments they use for IBA that are related to health conditions or treatments, even if those segments are not precise or sensitive.  In turn, this allows consumers to view a member company’s standard health-related segments, and make their own determination whether they wish to opt-out of that company’s data collection for IBA.  We feel that this two-pronged approach, requiring consumer Opt-In Consent for targeting on sensitive topics, while also requiring members to publicly disclose any standard health-related segments (sensitive or not) will help consumers by ensuring they are well-informed and empowered to exercise their choice when it comes to the use of health-related data for IBA.

It is also important to remember that the NAI Code prohibits members from using, or allowing the use of, IBA data other than for marketing purposes. Thus, members are prohibited from using, or allowing the use of, health-related interest segments – or any other interest segments – for purposes such determining eligibility for health insurance, life insurance, or employment.

It is also essential to note one key difference between the NAI Code and other regulations.  When the NAI interprets the NAI Code in a specific context of a member’s activities, we apply our own judgment and experience.  Interpretive matters related to the NAI Code are the sole province of the NAI.  We nevertheless understand that the FTC or other regulators may have a different view as to what health segment data should be deemed “sensitive” when it comes to interest-based advertising. We encourage our members to contact NAI staff with any questions pertaining to the NAI Code of Conduct, and to contact their counsel regarding “sensitive” data outside the Code.  With input from our members and other stakeholders, the NAI Code, along with related NAI guidance on sensitive health data and other topics, is expected to evolve and change from time-to-time.