Monday, October 04, 2010

behavioral advertising icon

I think self regulation in the behavioral ad industry is generally productive, but this IAB press release suggests the newest effort is promoting something that will induce a false sense of disclosure.

This Advertising Option Icon thing is something I heard rumblings about a little while back. The idea is to badge ads that use your behavior, and badge sites who collect your behavior for this use.

A couple of things make me skeptical:

First, this is a stigmatizing mark -- a tattoo that will label pages as "spying" to some and other simply won't notice. I'm willing to bet that such an icon won't be an effective indicator (no matter what the self-regulating body claims) since people
won't pay attention. We all know how poorly the lock icon worked, and people actually paid attention to that one. As an added disincentive, major advertisers have to pay yearly to use the tattoo.

Second, not just advertisers do this tracking, and the advertisers can capitalize on this. They would likely find a way to use third parties for data collection in order to get around the requirement of showing the badge.

Finally, the icon is a play button looking thing. Nothing in the visual suggests what's going on. A pair of eyeballs might be a more intuitive representation.

Icons in web pages aren't going to help. My opinion is that if we want to represent hidden behavior to users we have to have more flexibility. Such visual representations shouldn't be limited to ads, because if we start using icons to represent this tracking behavior for other contexts, the number of icons users must understand multiplies.

Aza's privacy icons project is a good direction; I think it would encompass what is being attempted here without restricting it to ads and with more efficacy since it would be one comprehensive set for all the web.

1 comment:

Aqualon said...

I bet if you have negative icons noone will use them fewest of all those advertisers, that do bad things with your data. And for positive ones? At the end of the day you have these icons scattered around the web and nobody can trust them at all.