On January 15, 2015, The Globe and Mail sent an e-mail to all its online subscribers and registered readers, alerting them about its new privacy policy, terms and conditions, and The Globe’s new online tool to opt out of targeting by interest-based advertisers.

The ability to deliver relevant editorial content is fundamental to any news organisation. You fail in that department and you basically don’t exist – or you won’t for long anyway.

Delivering relevant advertising, however, offers exciting new opportunities to engage and better serve the reader while uncovering potential issues regarding the collection of the reader’s personal data.

Maintaining consumer trust to ensure future success is a core pillar of many large and successful publishers — and why we must be transparent about what we are collecting, offer readers control over such collection, and ensure we adequately protect the data collected.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) and the AdChoices programme

The DAA is an independent, non-profit, industry-based organisation founded by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Association of National Advertisers, the 4As, the Direct Marketing Association, the American Advertising Federation, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

According to its Web site, the aim of the DAA is “to ensure that the high standards for consumer privacy, transparency, and control are addressed and enforced.”

DAA created AdChoices as a self-regulatory programme for online behavioural advertising. It was crafted with the intention of offering online readers more control over their internet experience with interest-based advertising.

The Globe and Mail supports the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) in creating greater transparency for consumers and advertisers and implemented AdChoices on its digital properties.

The Globe and Mail launches the AdChoices opt-out tool and adds another level of transparency.

Most AdChoices participants send their readers to the AdChoices Web site to opt out. However, this tool only displays programme participants. A reader is left in the dark as to all the other advertising he sees.

The Globe’s opt-out tool offers full transparency on all advertisers of its Web sites that may use ads for collecting behavioural data. This tool gives The Globe’s readers both more visibility and more control over interest-based advertising.

There are multiple points of entry to the AdChoices tool, but the two most obvious places are on the advertising itself (as shown above) or via a link permanently accessible from the footer.

Once a reader clicks on The Globe’s tool, the reader is shown all the participants who are potentially using behavioural targeting on The Globe and Mail’s Web sites, including:

  • Participants in the AdChoices programme (who provide an auto opt out).

  • Non-participants who provide a manual opt out.

  • Non-participants who do not allow readers to opt out.

“Opting out is not easy. How come OBA (online behavioural advertising) is not opt-in in the first place?” (reader feedback)

As quite a few readers and subscribers pointed out, the opt-out process can be onerous. Indeed, this is an imperfect tool. Many sent e-mails asking why they were asked to do all the work themselves.

At the core of the issues is the fact that the system is cookie-based and, hence, a reader must do so himself because the cookie is activated per device/per browser. In essence, to completely opt out of interest-based targeting, one must go through the entire process for all computer devices and/or browsers used.

The Globe has made it as easy as possible to opt all out with an “Advertising – All OFF” button, but this process only works for companies participating in AdChoices.

The “OBA should be opt-in not opt-out” philosophical stance is valid but not practicable in the current advertising eco-system.

The reality is that we all need advertising revenues and, short of being government regulated (something the industry is trying to avoid, hence AdChoices), readers are finding out the hard way that they have been tracked and targeted for years. It is mind boggling how many readers are still “shocked” to find out they are targeted online.

These arguments are good and necessary. Isn’t it the role of news organisations to inform the public on all matters, including OBA?