TrustArc Blog

Not Subject to OBA Principles? – Think Again!

May 28, 2013

Tony Berman
Senior Product Manager | TRUSTe


Last week we were approached by a globally recognized brand to advise on a Letter of Inquiry from the Council of Better Business Bureau (CBBB) regarding compliance with OBA principles. TRUSTe welcomed the opportunity to help jump in and advise on a corrective course of action, including immediate next steps.

We all know the CBBB, in its role as a consumer advocate, helps consumers resolve service disputes with companies that they have purchased products from, but did you know that the CBBB also administers the Online Interest-Based Advertising (OBA) Accountability Program, under the policy guidance of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council?  The Accountability Program is the independent enforcement agent of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).

The mission of the Accountability Program is to build consumer trust in Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) by ensuring that companies engaged in OBA comply with the OBA Principles.

As a business, you may be thinking, “I am not a member of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council or the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), so these principles do not apply to me and my website.”

Not so, it would seem. If your website allows the collection of information by third parties for interest-based ads, or allows the serving of interest-based ads then you are considered a “covered entity” by the Accountability Program and are required to comply with OBA Principles.

It is our understanding that a number of websites have received Inquiry Letters regarding Online Behavioral Advertising Practices from the Accountability Program recently. The inquiry process is confidential so it is unclear how many letters have gone out in this most recent wave of mailings from the Accountability Program. A Letter of Inquiry is sent when the Accountability Program has reason to believe that the company may not be in compliance with some aspect of the OBA Principles.

Once a company receives a Letter of Inquiry, the Accountability Program works with the company through the inquiry process to determine if there is an issue of non-compliance and, if so, helps the company come into compliance. At the end of the process, the Accountability Program issues a published decision along with an accompanying press release.  To date, there have been 19 public decisions.

If your site allows interest-based advertising or third-party data collection, chances are that the CBBB will be assessing your OBA compliance in the near future. My advice to large ecommerce and publisher websites – make things easier on yourselves by proactively assessing your OBA exposure and implement simple OBA compliance mechanisms on your site.

The good news is TRUSTe has just the solution to ensure compliance with the OBA principles, and consequently the CBBB Online Interest-Based Advertising (OBA) Accountability Program. TRUSTe technology assesses whether a site is a “covered entity,” and if so, provides you with an OBA compliance solution that adheres to the principles of Accountability Program.

Chat with us before the CBBB chats with you.

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