On July 2, 2009, five marketing industry associations jointly published a set of voluntary behavioral marketing guidelines entitled “Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising.” The American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Better Business Bureau developed the standards, which correspond to the self-regulatory principles proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).

Behavioral advertising involves collecting and analyzing information about consumer online behavior for marketing-related purposes, such as serving targeted ads, or developing purchase propensity models. In the U.S., the practice has come under scrutiny by consumer groups, legislators and the FTC. The FTC published a second report on its own proposed self-regulatory principles on February 12, 2009.

The new self-regulatory guidelines are based on seven principles: Education, Transparency, Consumer Control, Data Security, Consent to Material Changes, Sensitive Data and Accountability. The principles call on participating organizations to (i) conduct outreach campaigns to educate consumers about behavioral advertising, (ii) provide clear disclosures about their online behavioral advertising practices (including notices at data collection points), (iii) allow consumers to choose whether their data is used for behavioral advertising, (iv) provide security for consumer information and limit its retention, (v) obtain consumer consent to material changes regarding the use of their information, and (vi) require parental consent for the use of information collected from children under the age of 13. The principles also call for establishing an accountability program for monitoring compliance with the guidelines and reporting non-compliance to appropriate government agencies. The Better Business Bureau and the Direct Marketing Association are currently working together to develop accountability mechanisms, which are intended to be in place by early 2010.