So far the industry response to concerns about tracking privacy has been driven by the ad industry: It’s now up to advertisers and agencies to add tracking icons to ads, which lead the user to an upgraded notice-and-choice experience that covers the universe of tracking companies. While websites are encouraged to provide their own disclosure about tracking on their site, it’s difficult, and the default suggestion is to link over to the industry’s new global opt-out. This is certainly an easy approach for websites, and after all, ad companies are the ones doing the tracking, so they should be saddled with the burden of compliance.
Despite the superficial appeal, smarter publishers are starting to realize that this approach doesn’t fully serve their interests. Here’s why:
- Context is critical. Third-party tracking must be explained and understood within the context of the the free content and services user’s enjoy on your site, as well as your overall privacy framework.
- One-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Delivering your privacy-concerned users to a global opt-out not only interrupts their experience on your site, it puts your user in a one-size-fits-all process without distinctions based on the purposes of tracking. Your own retargeting partner may be lumped in with hard-core data traders and intermediaries.
- You’re cut out of the conversation. Increasingly, ad-driven notices deliver users to an experience where they are invited to opt-in to tracking and to give more profile data to the tracking company. For tracking companies, this is the silver lining of the new disclosure rules; for publishers, it may be the worst kind of data leakage.
- Do-Not-Track shifts the default. Whatever your view of the likelihood of a federal Do-Not-Track law, the fact is that a browser-based choices are already here, and will only get easier and more visible. Websites (and not ad companies) are in the best position to have a conversation with users about those choices.
- You can’t avoid being the gatekeeper. In some jurisdictions websites simply won’t be able to shift the compliance burden to advertisers. Opt-in cookie consent will soon be required in the European Union, and only website operators are in a position to obtain consent for third-party tracking.
For all of these reasons, today we’re announcing today the availability of a new service for online publishers, the PrivacyChoice API for Websites. Using our scanning and data set, it will be much easier for websites to deliver their own complete, customized privacy experience for third-party tracking, as a complement to ad-based disclosure.
There’s more detail in our press release. Watch this space for more advice on best practices for implementation, disclosure templates and much more. If you are interested in a look at the detailed API specification, please be in touch.
PrivacyChoice API makes tracking privacy easier for websites and their users
New API automates website-based notices now required by industry and government initiatives.
PrivacyChoice, an innovator in online privacy, has announced the availability of the PrivacyChoice API, which enables websites to painlessly provide enhanced privacy disclosure about third-party tracking. The service automatically maintains a customized list of ad and data partners for any site, making it easy to provide useful and complete disclosure within the site’s own privacy experience. The new service simplifies compliance with new industry directives the United States and cookie-consent regulations in the European Union.
“Websites have a major stake in the privacy framework for online tracking, particularly with the availability of Do-Not-Track features in browsers,” said PrivacyChoice Founder Jim Brock. “Now publishers can offer a more informative and detailed explanation of tracking privacy within the bounds of their own sites, without sending users to a generic global opt-out. They can also ensure that their disclosure is complete, given the limitations of icon-based disclosure in ads.”
The new API, announced at the 2nd annual Privacy Identity Innovation conference (pii2011), reflects learning since PrivacyChoice launched the first prototype website disclosure tool – PrivacyWidget – in 2009. Brock said, “One key lesson has been that websites appreciate the ease of an automated process, but also want the ability to customize and integrate disclosure and choices.”
The new API leverages the PrivacyChoice Tracker List, the first public database of tracking company information. The list, which covers nearly 400 tracking companies around the world, is continuously curated and includes for each company their use data, key privacy policies, industry oversight and user choices. PrivacyChoice also licenses the Tracker List database to privacy application providers.
For more information and to review the detailed API specifications, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in early 2009, the PrivacyChoice mission is to make online privacy easier for web users and websites. PrivacyChoice offers a suite of privacy tools for tracking awareness, tracking control, website privacy scanning, and automated website privacy disclosure. The PrivacyChoice database and tools have been featured in the Wall Street Journal’s online privacy coverage, and were cited in the FTC’s recent privacy report.