Submission to the OPC’s Consultation on Consent under PIPEDA (DAAC)

Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada

October 2016

Note: This submission was contributed by the author to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Consultation on Consent under PIPEDA.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.


Summary

The Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) is a not-for-profit consortium of the leading national advertising, media agency, and marketing associations, whose members share a commitment to delivering a robust and credible self-regulatory program for responsible online interest-based advertising, called AdChoices.

The DAAC’s AdChoices program is an excellent example of the viability of PIPEDA’s current consent requirement within a complex data ecosystem.

The AdChoices program has been specifically designed to build upon PIPEDA’s principles for fair information practices, in particular PIPEDA’s accountability, transparency, and consent principles.

In this regard, the AdChoices program is also an example of a solution to the challenges to the consent model within the emerging data environment that can be achieved without legislative change.

Full submission:

Note: As this submission was provided by an entity not subject to the Official Languages Act, the full document is only available in the language provided.

Thank you to the Policy and Research Group of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for opening a dialogue about the viability of the current consent model. The Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) is pleased to provide this submission in response to the Consent and Privacy discussion paper released by your Office, and in particular, the questions relating to self-regulation and the value of icons.

About the DAAC

The Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) is a not-for-profit consortium of the leading national advertising, media agency, and marketing associations, whose members share a commitment to delivering a robust and credible self-regulatory program for responsible online interest-based advertising, called AdChoices.

Our founding member organizations consist of the following trade associations:

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), Canada’s independent national advertising industry self-regulatory body, is responsible for implementing the accountability and self-regulatory enforcement framework for the Canadian AdChoices program.

Currently, 75 publishers, website operators, ad networks, ad exchanges, advertisers, internet service providers and other companies have signed up for the DAAC’s AdChoices program, all with a view of helping enhance their respective compliance with PIPEDA and, overall, to enhance the trust of all stakeholders in the Canadian digital advertising arena.

A list of many of the companies participating in the Canadian AdChoices program can be found on the DAAC’s website. 

The AdChoices Program

The DAAC’s AdChoices program is an excellent example of the viability of PIPEDA’s current consent requirement within a complex data ecosystem. The program has been specifically designed to build upon PIPEDA’s principles for fair information practices, in particular PIPEDA’s accountability, transparency, and consent principles. A brief description the program is set out below.

What is OBA/IBA?

By way of background, online behavioural advertising (OBA), which is also referred to as “interest-based advertising”, refers to the use of data collected across multiple websites in order to predict user preferences and to show ads that are most likely to be of interest to users. In other words, OBA is the tailored ads we see based on our web viewing data across websites.

OBA plays a critically important role in the Internets economic model. Companies and consumers both benefit from OBA. Most websites and online services rely on OBA for revenue and do not charge users fees for viewing or using content. Consumers also benefit because OBA results in more interesting, relevant, and useful advertisements.

Certain data collected and used for OBA may involve personal information. As such, even though OBA may not always include personally identifiable information, companies that are involved in OBA have to take steps to ensure that they comply with Canadian privacy laws.

There are multiple and a rapidly growing number of companies within the digital advertising ecosystem, and a complex set of associated data flows in connection with the delivery of OBA. It is for this reason that we believe that the stakeholders involved in OBA—who intimately understand the practice—are by far the best positioned to establish standards for the delivery of OBA in a manner that is respectful to consumers.

AdChoices – Program Features

As noted above, the AdChoices program is designed to provide consumers with enhanced transparency and control over interest-based ads, and is used by participating organizations in Canada to help them comply with PIPEDA’s consent and other requirements. The program is specifically intended to provide companies with an operationally seamless means to give consumers a simple, one-button mechanism to obtain more information about OBA practices and to exercise their choice about whether to continue to receive interest-based advertisements.

The Canadian AdChoices program was developed by the DAAC in conjunction with the Digital Advertising Alliance in the U.S. The program continues to be affiliated with the Digital Advertising Alliance in the U.S. and the European Digital Advertising Alliance across 28 countries in Europe, with each organization using the same AdChoices icon. The Canadian program requires participating organizations to adhere to the Canadian Self-Regulatory Principles of Online Behavioural Advertising (the “Principles”). 

The Principles are based on a global standard set of OBA principles created by the Digital Advertising Alliance in the U.S., and have been specifically tailored to be fully consistent with PIPEDA, and your Office’s Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising (“OBA Guidelines”). The OBA Guidelines provide that organizations would be permitted under PIPEDA to process personal information for OBA purposes with the implied consent of individuals, subject to certain conditions. 

Consistent with PIPEDA, the concepts of (i) Transparency, (ii) Choice, and (iii) Accountability are core features of the AdChoices program.

(i) Enhanced Transparency

The AdChoices program is designed to provide enhanced transparency to consumers about OBA, and the Transparency Principle sets out specific notice obligations for participating companies.

In essence, the notice requirements under the Transparency Principle are effected by the use of the AdChoices Icon, which appears to consumers in digital advertisements or on web pages. The display of the Icon signifies that an ad has been delivered using OBA data. The Icon may also signify that data is being collected and used on that page for OBA purposes.

By clicking on the AdChoices Icon, consumers can receive more information about OBA, and can exercise their choice about whether to continue receiving OBA advertisements (as described below).

The Transparency Principle also sets out additional requirements for language that needs to be included in website notices, namely clear descriptions of the following:

  • the types of data collected online for OBA purposes, including any personal information;
  • the uses and disclosures of such data;
  • a link or other means for a consumer to access an easy to use mechanism for exercising choice with respect to the collection, use, or disclosure of data for OBA purposes; and
  • the fact that the company adheres to the Principles.

(ii) Consumer Control

Under the Consumer Control Principle, consumers must be provided with the ability to exercise choice about the collection, use, or disclosure of data for OBA purposes. Consistent with this Principle, the AdChoices program enables consumers to simply click on the Icon to exercise their choice about whether to continue to receive interest-based advertisements.

Through an industry-developed Consumer Choice Page, consumers can easily opt-out of receiving interest-based ads from a list of participating ad networks and other companies involved in the serving of OBA ads. This cross-industry opt-out mechanism is unique, and a tremendously valuable tool that helps companies in the Canadian digital advertising ecosystem comply with their obligations under PIPEDA and the OBA Guidelines by providing a simple mechanism for individuals to opt-out of the collection and use of their personal information for OBA purposes.

(iii) Accountability for Self-Regulation

Accountability is a critical component of our self-regulatory program for OBA. The AdChoices accountability framework is implemented by Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) who:

  • Monitors companies participating in the program for compliance with the Principles;
  • Maintains a process for handling complaints concerning possible non-compliance with the Principles;
  • Initiates investigations into potential incidences of non-compliance identified through monitoring or its complaint procedures and works in cooperation with those involved in an investigation to achieve compliance; and
  • Issues online reports regarding findings of non-compliance.

The accountability framework for the AdChoices program administered by ASC helps maintain the integrity of our self-regulatory program, and it enhances participating companies’ compliance with their respective obligations under PIPEDA’s accountability principle.

Conclusion

The DAAC is very proud of the success thus far of the Canadian AdChoices program. We believe that our program is an excellent example of the viability of PIPEDA’s current consent model within a complex data ecosystem. And we also believe that the AdChoices program is an example of the type of solution contemplated in your Discussion Paper that addresses the challenges to PIPEDA’s consent model without legislative change and in a manner that respects the privacy interests of Canadians.

We look forward to continuing our participation in the consultation.

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