A self-regulatory initiative for behavioural advertising was launched last week in an attempt to protect the 4bn online ad industry from an implementation of EU law that could destroy it.

The Online Behavioural Advertising Framework is a way for ad firms to adhere to the regulatory requirements set out by the revised e-privacy directive coming into effect on 25 May 2011.

This includes an icon which will appear on all targeted ads from companies that have signed up to the initiative, which will be prompted via a pan-European ad campaign.

The e-privacy directive, an amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, requires that all online businesses in the UK that collect, store and use data on visitors to their websites to gain explicit consumer consent.

The framework, developed by a coalition of advertising, marketing and online businesses including the IAB, the World Federation of Advertisers, the European Advertising Standards Alliance, the Direct Marketing Association and ISBA – has obtained signatures from the top ten UK ad networks, with more set to follow suit, including AdPepper, Jemm Media and Unanimis.

The coalition aims to meet the notion of user consent through a mixture of transparency and control. Users who are given behaviourally targeted and retargeted ads will be alerted by the privacy icon which, when clicked on, gives information on what behavioural targeting is, how the practice can be achieved, and what users can do to opt out of receiving such ads through a central website, Your Online Choices.

It is expected that the framework will be accepted by the European Commission, with the Government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, recently saying that the approach was “the sort of industry-developed solution that we see as critical to the UK’s ability to meet the requirements of the directive.”

If approved by all 27 member states of the EU, a series of obligations will be set out for signatories, which will include a three-phase certification and auditing process which will requite them to provide clear and accessible information on behavioural targeting practice and opt-out mechanisms. A ‘trading seal’ denoting compliance will then be awarded.

Only time will tell if the framework becomes widely accepted and how many advertisers will adhere to the obligations set out.

Please note the views expressed in this blog are the views of the author, Andre Brown and do not represent the view of Locayta, its employees or its shareholders. For more information about Locayta, visit www.locayta.com