Canadian mobile ad tracking standards need work, industry regulators admit

While a recent Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) report concluded the industry was successfully implementing new standards for online behavioural advertising (OBA), it also revealed a notable gap: the current lack of industry regulations regarding mobile advertising, “which is not currently encompassed under ASC’s AdChoices Accountability Program,” the report said.

Only three of the 115 privacy complaints regarding OBA, also known as Interest-Based Advertising (IBA), that ASC received from consumers between January 2015 and November 2015 involved mobile applications, but the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) is planning to implement rules that will govern the mobile market before that number can grow.

“What we’re trying to do is bring the opt-out tools from the program over in the U.S. to Canadian users, to sort of fill out the program,” DAAC executive director Julie Ford says.

“Right now you might see the [AdChoices] icon here and there on a mobile device, and that’s usually bleed-over from the U.S. program,” she says. “There’s a little bit of guidance that we need to formulate around how the icon can be displayed in Canada.”

One reason it’s taken so long for the DAAC to develop Canadian OBA standards for the mobile market is that its American equivalent, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), has only been covering mobile applications since September 2015, Peter White, senior vice president of ASC, says.

“It is the next area of interest in the U.S.,” he says. “But it is also a work in progress… a matter of getting everything in place to understand what is required from apps, because they are significantly different from browser-based advertising.”

There are already key differences between existing requirements that govern the American and Canadian AdChoices programs, with Canadian standards requiring that users receive an “above the fold” notice whenever they see cookie-based ads, while footer notices are deemed acceptable under the American program.

The DAAC expects to release new OBA requirements that will include Canada’s mobile market in the first half of 2016, Ford and White say.

In the meantime, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) spokesperson Tobi Cohen says that mobile users are protected by the “technology neutral” Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private-sector privacy law.

“The privacy protections in PIPEDA apply to all organizations subject to the Act that collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activity, regardless of the technological platform,” Cohen says. “As a result, under federal private-sector privacy legislation, mobile consumers have the same privacy rights as consumers in the online environment.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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