#CyberFLASH: Canadian mobile ad tracking standards need work, industry regulators admit

computer-laptop-keyboard-852While a recent Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) report concluded the industry was successfully implementing new standards for online behavioural advertising (OBA), it also revealed a notable gap: the current lack of industry regulations regarding mobile advertising, “which is not currently encompassed under ASC’s AdChoices Accountability Program,” the report said.

Only three of the 115 privacy complaints regarding OBA, also known as Interest-Based Advertising (IBA), that ASC received from consumers between January 2015 and November 2015 involved mobile applications, but the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) is planning to implement rules that will govern the mobile market before that number can grow.

“What we’re trying to do is bring the opt-out tools from the program over in the U.S. to Canadian users, to sort of fill out the program,” DAAC executive director Julie Ford says.

“Right now you might see the [AdChoices] icon here and there on a mobile device, and that’s usually bleed-over from the U.S. program,” she says. “There’s a little bit of guidance that we need to formulate around how the icon can be displayed in Canada.”

One reason it’s taken so long for the DAAC to develop Canadian OBA standards for the mobile market is that its American equivalent, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), has only been covering mobile applications since September 2015, Peter White, senior vice president of ASC, says.

“It is the next area of interest in the U.S.,” he says. “But it is also a work in progress… a matter of getting everything in place to understand what is required from apps, because they are significantly different from browser-based advertising.”

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#CyberFLASH: Canada’s Privacy Commissioner investigates online behavioural advertising

slide_349495_3739937_freeCanada’s privacy commissioner has initiated a review of websites viewed by Canadians to ensure compliance with its guidance on the use of online behavioural advertising

The privacy commissioner defines OBA to include the tracking and targeting of individuals’ web activities, across sites and over time, in order to serve advertising that is tailored to those individuals’ inferred interests. Such tracking is normally achieved using technologies such as cookies, web beacons and device data.

The privacy commissioner’s guidance (see above link) indicates that the use of OBA is permissible if:

  • Individuals are made aware of the purposes for the tracking practices in a clear and understandable way that is obvious and not buried within a privacy policy. Various communication methods such as online banners, layered approaches and interactive tools may be considered
  • Individuals are informed of the use of OBA at or before the time of collection and provided with information on the parties involved
  • There is an ability to “opt-out” of OBA practices that takes immediate effect and is persistent
  • The information collected is limited to non-sensitive information (for example, searches relating to health conditions should not be tracked)
  • The information collected and used is destroyed or de-identified as soon as possible.

The guidance also indicates that it is not permissible to use tracking tools that an individual cannot stop or control without extraordinary measures, nor should OBA be targeted at children.

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