Understanding Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA)
Online behavioral advertising (aka "OBA") describes a broad set of activities companies engage in to collect information about your online activity (like webpages you visit) and use it to show you ads or content they believe to be more relevant to you.
How does it work?
What do they know about me?
In most cases the data that behavioral advertising companies collect about you is not tied to your personal information. That is to say, they don’t know your name, your home address, or your phone number. Instead, these companies identify you by a random ID number and try to make guesses about your interests and characteristics based on your online activity. The data they retain could include:
- Your inferred age group (e.g. 18-25)
- Your inferred gender (e.g. male)
- Your inferred purchase interests (e.g. shoes)
What Control Do I Have?
There are a number of tools you can use to understand and control your online behavioral advertising experience. If you choose to "opt-out" of behavioral advertising by a specific company you prevent them from using information they have collected about you to deliver advertisements, however they can continue to show you generic, non-targeted advertisements online.
There are three major areas where you can exercise control over your behavioral advertising experience:
The "Forward I" Icon
The icon you see at left was chosen by the advertising industry to signify ad privacy notice and choice. When you see this icon on a webpage or in an online advertisement you can click it to learn more about the behavioral advertising practices associated with that webpage or ad. Clicking the icon will also allow you to access a page where you can opt-out of the use of your information for behavioral advertising purposes. Some webpages may choose not to use this icon, instead providing a link (titled "About Our Advertising Practices", for example) that offers you comparable ad privacy notice and choice. You can learn more about this advertising industry self-regulatory program here.
Privacy Policies & Direct Opt-Outs
Browser Level Protections
Browsers offer a variety of tools to help you understand and exercise choice over online behavioral advertising. Internet Explorer, for example, allows IE9 users to download lists that block or allow specific companies from conducting behavioral advertising. Another popular browser, Firefox, offers users free browser add-ons that can help them see what companies track them online and opt-out if they wish.
You can learn more about these browser privacy tools below:
Internet Explorer Firefox Chrome Safari
What Happens If I Opt-Out?
If you opt-out of online behavioral advertising it prevents the companies you opt-out of from using the information they collect about you to serve you targeted ads or personalized content.
However, it is important to understand the following about opt-outs:
Opt-Outs Do Not Block Ads
If you opt-out you will continue to see online ads and may even see online ads from companies from which you opted-out. Remember, opt-outs do not stop companies from showing you ads, they only stop companies from showing you targeted ads.
Opt-Outs Do Not Prevent Data Collection
Companies can continue to collect data about your browsing activity after you have opted-out – your opt-out only prevents them from using this data to serve you targeted ads or personalized content.
Opt-Outs Can Be Accidently Erased
Your opt-outs are recorded using cookies so if you erase your cookies you will erase your opt-outs. You can make your opt-outs permanent by installing a browser add-on. TRUSTe currently offers a browser add-on for Firefox users who want to protect their opt-outs from accidental deletion.
What Role Does TRUSTe Play?
Looking for more information?
When it comes to behavioral advertising TRUSTe plays three distinct roles in protecting consumer privacy:
Ad Privacy Notice & Choice Provider
TRUSTe provides a technology product, called TRUSTed Ads, that helps companies provide consumers with notice and choice about online tracking activities and behavioral advertising.