BBB National Programs Press Releases

“Cookie-less” Tech Subject to Accountability Program Enforcement

Arlington, VA – August 21, 2014 – The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program) released its second Compliance Warning today, clarifying that the Digital Advertising Alliance’s Self-Regulatory Principles apply to all technologies companies employ to collect data about consumers’ web-surfing activity in order to serve them ads based on interests inferred from that activity. The Accountability Program uses Compliance Warnings to provide insight into and clarification of companies’ obligations under these cross-industry Principles—the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA Principles), the Self-Regulatory Principles for Multi-Site Data (MSD Principles), and the Application of Self-Regulatory Principles to the Mobile Environment (Mobile Guidance) (collectively, the Principles).[1]

The Accountability Program issued this compliance warning in light of the advertising industry’s increasing use of alternative identification technologies to reach consumers in the burgeoning multi-screen world. According to a recent Nielson report, the average consumer now owns four different devices and spends about 60 hours a week accessing a variety of content across multiple platforms.[2]

Genie Barton, Council of Better Business Bureaus Vice President and Director of the Accountability Program explained, “We issued this compliance advisory to make sure that the advertising industry clearly understood that the OBA Principles apply to all methods used for third-party collection and use of data for personalized ads across devices and platforms. We already have, and we will continue to make sure that consumers receive real-time notice, an explanation of the company’s interest-based advertising practices and an easy-to-use opt-out irrespective of the technology used.”[3]

Alternative identification technologies, including locally shared objects and canvas fingerprints, represent the evolution of user and device identification away from the traditional HTTP cookie. Cookies, while still useful, are increasingly just one element in advertisers’ toolkits. With consumers’ Internet activity no longer centered on a shared PC in the family den, advertisers have had to adapt their techniques to the multi-device, multi-screen world. The DAA’s Self-Regulatory Principles were designed to have the flexibility and adaptability required in the constantly changing digital advertising landscape.

As industry continues to innovate and blaze new trails, be assured that strong, self-regulation and vigorous enforcement will be right there providing to make sure that companies stay on the path of compliance with the Principles.

1. Enforcement of the Mobile Guidance will begin when the industry-wide mobile opt-out tools which are currently being tested become available.

2. The Nielsen Company, The U.S. Digital Consumer Report (2014).

3. See In re: BlueCava, Inc. (May 2012) (clarifying the scope of the opt-out) available at We note that after the decision, the company went beyond the requirements of the OBA Principles to develop a cross-platform opt-out that enables it to compete on privacy and compliance, demonstrating that self-regulatory guidance and responsible, innovative industry solutions can deliver additional benefits to consumers.