The New Face of Online Privacy
There is a new "i" in town, and it is carrying a lot of weight. Advertisers in the industry are agreeing to utilize a standard icon, a little "i" which will be used in online ads for demographical and behavioral data to inform consumers of what is new.
According to Jules Polonetsky, co-chairman and director of the Future of Privacy Forum, finding a universal symbol would resonate with consumers. Polonetsky states, "People will look at it, and once they know what it is, they’ll get it, and always get it."
When consumers get ads, starting around the middle of this summer, they will find an accompanying blue icon with the "i" which they can then click on. The icon will answer the question, "why did I get this ad?"
By clicking on the icon, which is a white "i" surrounded by a circle encased in a powder blue background, consumers will be forwarded to a page which will explain how that particular advertiser is tracking web histories and demographic profiles.
This symbol is the result of a coalition of trade groups that were interested in curbing government regulations of the industry. This debate occurs because of consumer privacy concerns. Congress is interested in privacy issues, as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Both agencies have stated that privacy issues of companies marketing to consumers, and are committed to protecting the rights of the consumers.
Maneesha Mithal, form the FTC, said it was too soon to determine if the icon will help consumers or not. She goes on to state, "we support industry efforts to develop a consistent symbol...[to] educate consumers about online advertising." Mithal goes on to say, "We hope they will share data, such as click-through and opt-out rates, that will inform the debate."
These measures are the result of the FTC warnings that the advertising industry needed to impose stricter self-regulation. Many alternative icons were considered before arriving on this one. The creative minds at WWJP, GroupM, the Kantar Group and Olgilvy created the icon.
It became important to find a consistent icon that would be used in the industry. Other icons that failed the test were a small letter called the "Power I" or an asterisk that looked like a silhouette called "Asterisk Man."
The advertising groups were shocked into action when the F.T.C. issued their report on the subject last winter. The advertisers agreed to the self-regulating principles and adopted a new standard for the injury.
Stuart P. Ingis, partner at the Venable law firm represented the trade groups in this matter. He said that the companies will support this effort full on, "you’ll wind up capturing a large percentage of the marketplace."
Other companies involved in the project, such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau, started an online campaign which explained the behavior tactics to consumers. Mike Zaneis, the vice president for public policy said that the second phase of the campaign would focus on what Power I is, and how it will affect consumer interactions with the icon. These efforts are not considered a panacea, but will begin to move forward towards helping consumers know about the advertising that targets them daily from internet companies.