AOL on Wednesday announced the launch of a consumer-awareness program that will give consumers enhanced notice and information about behaviorally targeted advertising. When fully implemented, the program will deliver millions of public service banner ads across AOL’s owned-and-operated and third-party networks, which together reach more than 91% of the U.S. online audience. AOL also announced a substantial improvement to the current opt-out process by expanding the use of patent-pending technology developed by TACODA, a leading behavioral targeting solutions company that AOL acquired earlier this year.
“Our goal with this program is to engender greater trust for targeted advertising by communicating with consumers in a more visible way, and by providing them more information about their choices,” said Curt Viebranz, President of Platform-A. “AOL believes that doing more to explain to users the choices they have over the way their data is used, and helping them exercise those preferences will help them feel more in control.”
Banner ads providing enhanced notice and choice are already appearing on sites in the TACODA network. When fully implemented by the end of this year, the program will extend to AOL’s entire display advertising network by the end of 2007. AOL’s display ad network is the largest in the world, with a combined reach of more than 91% of online consumers in the U.S. across more than 7,000 websites. The network includes AOL’s owned-and-operated sites as well as Advertising.com’s and TACODA’s third-party networks.
The expanded use of the TACODA opt-out technology will help better preserve consumer choices. Today, users who opt-out of behavioral targeting by using an opt-out cookie risk having their preference lost if they later delete their cookies. TACODA leverages a Web cache technique to preserve a consumers’ opt-out choice even if they delete their browser cookies, something other opt-out systems cannot currently do. AOL is also exploring opportunities to license this technology on a royalty-free basis for use exclusively in consumer privacy protection programs.
“We want to make the opt-out process as simple and transparent as possible,” said Jules Polonetsky, Chief Privacy Officer, AOL. “We urge the industry to join us in ensuring that users who take steps to minimize the data they provide have their choices maintained.”
AOL also announced that it will be presenting its views on targeted advertising and consumer choice at an upcoming Federal Trade Commission town hall event, “E-havioral Advertising: Tracking, Targeting, and Technology.”