A blog post by Noga Rosenthal, NAI's General Counsel and Vice President for Compliance and Policy.
I recently delivered a presentation about the NAI’s self-regulatory framework and compliance program to the privacy and advertising practice groups at a major law firm. At the event, the first question I received was, “What makes the NAI different from other associations and organizations in the online advertising space?” In my opinion, there are three key differentiators that make the NAI unique: (1) our members, (2) our high standards, and (3) our hallmark compliance program.
First, our members. NAI is a non-profit self-regulatory organization exclusively for ad tech providers — networks, exchanges, data management platforms, programmatic platforms, DSPs. SSPs, RTB platforms, and other similar companies. These ad tech providers play a critical role in the digital advertising ecosystem. They provide considerable economic benefits across the entire online and mobile world, including to websites and brands. Our Code of Conduct (Code) only applies to these ad tech providers. Other organizations draw their membership from across the entire digital ecosystem, including publishers, brand advertisers, ISPs, carriers, cable, social networks, data brokers, audience rating services, and more. There are merits to both membership approaches. We are a comparatively small organization, specialized and laser-focused. This allows us to develop an expertise in our members’ business models, understand the challenges they face, and work with them to craft practical and responsible solutions.
Second, our standards. NAI’s Code dates back to 2000, when the NAI was created. At the time, the Federal Trade Commission “unanimously applaud[ed]” the NAI for developing these ground breaking, self-regulatory principles. The Code was updated in 2013 and received high praise from privacy advocates, policy makers, and leaders of industry for raising the bar for the responsible use of consumer data. For example, NAI has the most stringent standard around the use of health information for online advertising -- and we’re proud of that. In fact, Commissioner Julie Brill recently lauded the NAI for its efforts to protect consumer health data. On top of that, we have requirements around data retention policies, the use of personally identifiable information for Interest-Based Advertising, use limitations for all data collected for advertising purposes, requirements to participate in an industry-wide choice page, and data security, just to name a few. We are now extending those same high standards that we have applied to the desktop space to the mobile ecosystem.
Third, our hallmark compliance program. Self-regulation without ongoing compliance and robust enforcement isn’t worth the paper the rules are written on. That’s why we have a multi-pronged approach to compliance that helps our members adhere to the high standards of the Code even as business models and technologies evolve:
- NAI compliance starts with a pre-certification review of a company before it joins the NAI. Our compliance team conducts an in-depth review of every applicant’s business model and practices. Our Board of Directors then approves each application. No other self-regulatory body in online advertising does that.
- On top of that, we require every NAI member company to complete a compliance review of their business practice each and every year. These reviews proactively examine our member companies' business practices and public representations against the requirements of the Code.
- Moreover, we have a technical monitoring program that supports our legal and policy reviews.
- We also receive and manage consumer complaints, accept potential Code violation referrals from a wide range of stakeholders, and follow up on public reports of potential Code violations. If we discover that a member company is violating the Code, we have formal sanction procedures.
- Finally, In order to bring transparency to this process and our program generally, we publish annual reports. Through publication of this annual report, consumers, regulators and others gain visibility into the NAI’s compliance program and self-regulatory process.
That, in a nutshell, explains at a high level what makes NAI different. It is also why brands, advertisers and others in digital media look for NAI membership when they choose their partners.
If you have questions about NAI, our Code or our compliance program, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.