AdChoices compliance is up, complaints down

Brands, media companies and ad networks are providing more notice of privacy policies, but some consumers report issues when trying to opt out.

In its annual Compliance Report, Advertising Standards of Canada found that the AdChoices digital advertising program is rising in popularity – and more participants are deploying it correctly.

The AdChoices logo designed to notify consumers of interest-based advertising

The AdChoices logo, designed to notify consumers of interest-based advertising

The Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada (DAAC) launched the AdChoices program in Canada in 2013 to give consumers more information about online ads and provide more control over what ads Canadians are exposed to. Its annual Compliance Report studies how well participating sites and networks adhere to the programs standards, which dictate policies on informing website viewers about data tracking and providing reporting and opt-out measures.

As of the end of 2017, AdChoices had 83 program participants, up from 79 last year. These participants included ad networks and exchanges, ad tech companies, as well as major publishers and brand websites such as Netflix, Oath, Staples, Amazon and more.

The report studied 76 participating networks and websites. Of those, 64 (84%) had the mandated transparency measures in place. Only 10 of those websites were fully compliant when they joined.

Overall program compliance went up year-over-year – at year-end 2016, 69% of participants were compliant.

Eight participants have measures in place to eventually achieve compliance, and four failed to meet compliance standards outright.

Among third-party participants – adtech companies, ad networks and data brokers – 98% were compliant. The one company that was not yet compliant currently had measures in place to eventually meet the standards.

For the first party participants, 90% provide standard and enhanced notices of internet-based advertising standards in their privacy policies. Almost all (95%) provide a “choice mechanism” to give viewers more control over their experience, and 90% provide a full opt-out option. This compares to the 63% of non-participating companies sampled which provided opt-out mechanisms.

Most participants (78%) use either the AdChoices logo or AdChoices text to let people know how ads are served.

Audience complaints
On the consumer side, ad complaints decreased to 271 from 2016, which had seen a sharp year-over-year increase (to 283 complaints versus  only 142 were lodged in 2015).

Of the complaints submitted in the last year, most (201) were not actually considered DAAC policy issues by AdStandards (most revolving around not liking the ads, concerns that ads would give them a virus or assertions that ads were blocking the content). The rate of complaints that were actual concerns to AdStandards (4%) went down slightly from last year (5%).

Of those complaints which did raise policy concerns, the vast majority were that opt-out mechanisms were not consistently working.