Transparency, choice and education is the way forward for online privacy

A parliamentary body of MPs and Peers – the All Party Parliamentary Group on Communications – is to conduct an inquiry into internet traffic, including behavioural advertising and online privacy. The Group asks whether the Government should intervene over behavioural advertising or whether it should leave it to users, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and websites. The Group also asks whether there is a need for any new initiative to deal with online privacy. The Group has sought ‘written evidence’ from interested parties and will be meeting with key stakeholders in mid-June.

The IAB has submitted a response to the Group specifically addressing these two questions. You can read a copy of our response here. Our response provides the Group with an introduction to behavioural advertising, how it works, how it differs to contextual and demographic online advertising, the different business models and the benefits to internet users, content producers and publishers, and advertisers.

The IAB’s response argues that transparency, choice and education is the way forward for online privacy. Its four key points are:

1. Government intervention over behavioural advertising services is not necessary at this time. The current legal framework is sound and efforts should focus on transparency of what data are used and how and on securing user trust.

2. The parliamentary group should encourage self-regulatory initiatives to address privacy concerns relating behavioural advertising, in particular the IAB’s Good Practice Principles which seek to build greater transparency and user trust.

3. The UK Government should press for amendments to the Council of Europe’s draft Recommendation on ‘Profiling’ that seeks to extend the current EU data protection legal framework in areas such behavioural advertising, so that industry can have legal certainty and recommendations are not damaging to business.

4. The Group should welcome and support ongoing self-regulatory and educational efforts, rather than recommending a new approach or initiative on online privacy.

The IAB will be hoping to provide ‘oral evidence’ to the Group next month. A final report is expected in the autumn.

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