AppChoices – Behavioral Advertising Controls Gone Mobile

Online behavioral advertising (also known as “interest-based” advertising and “targeted” advertising) is the use of information collected about an individual’s online behavior (e.g, web browsing history) to serve online advertisements through ad networks tailored to that individual’s interests. Online behavioral advertising is broken into two categories — first party (online ads served on a website based on an individual’s online behavior on that website) and third party(online ads served on a website based on an individual’s online behavior on other websites). Online behavioral advertising is designed to increase the click-through rate by serving ads of greater interest to consumers.  Studies have shown that a majority of consumers prefer targeted online ads over irrelevant ones.  However, behavioral advertising also raises privacy concerns, as to deliver targeted advertising to an individual you need to collect information about that individual (and the scope of collected information could be broad, potentially including sensitive information).

Back in 2009, the FTC released a report on online behavioral advertising recommending industry-self regulation of third party online behavioral advertising (and implying they would step in if industry self-regulation was ineffective).  In response to the FTC’s report, a group of advertising and marketing trade associations including the Direct Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Better Business Bureau, and Network Advertising Initiative formed the Digital Advertising Alliance.  The DAA developed the “AdChoices” program to provide consumers with the ability to control whether data about them can be used for third party online behavioral advertising purposes.

The primary consumer-facing aspects of the AdChoices program are (1) the DAA Icon, an “i” in a triangle, which companies can use to provide more prominent notice of that company’s interest-based advertising practices; and (2) the Consumer Choice page, a web page introduced in 2010 through which consumers can opt out of the collection and use of web viewing data for online behavioral advertising and other applicable uses.  It’s a good idea for companies to include a link to the Consumer Choice page in their privacy policy.

Since 2010, more and more advertising (including behavioral advertising) is served through ad-supported mobile apps. As a result, last week the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) introduced two enhancements to the AdChoices program to extend it to mobile apps:

  • The AppChoices mobile application, available for Android and Apple devices, that gives consumers the ability to opt out of the collection of app usage data for online behavioral advertising and other applicable uses.  The AppChoices app can be downloaded from major app stores.  The DAA hosts a page with app store links at
  • The Consumer Choice page for Mobile Web, an updated and mobile-optimized version of the current Consumer Choice page.

The purpose of the DAA is to demonstrate to the FTC that industry self-regulation of behavioral advertising works.  The industry groups forming the DAA know that if they fail in their mission, the FTC will step in to regulate behavioral advertising.  FTC regulations on behavioral advertising would likely be more onerous than the current self-regulatory principles, and may favor privacy protections over the benefits of targeted advertising to consumers and businesses. This is why businesses should be rooting for the DAA to succeed, and should support their efforts. Look for a major push from the DAA and its member groups to drive increased adoption and usage of both current and new self-regulatory tools in the marketplace.  Companies should consider including updating their privacy policies to include information about the AppChoices download page as well as a link to the Consumer Choice page.