On the 10th of April, the Network Advertising Initiative floated some guidelines they’d like to use to make peace with the FTC and potentially with advocacy groups as well. I saw the New York Times write-up of the guidelines, which focused more on the cheekiness of the whole operation. Obviously anything that promises not to target people based on things like incontinence and death is a bad joke waiting to happen, but it is also so important to the future of online advertising. More personal information is known about individuals than ever before, and it’s very valuable stuff…SO what to do?
Forget the laundry list of taboo subjects for now, today I’m thinking about their proposal for self-regulation.

The NAI includes all of the big networks, so they argue that self regulation is good enough. But why blow the whistle on a competitor if your own targeting has problems? These operations span many offices, hundreds of employees, and billions of impressions – so there is always a risk of a mistake.

The best solution is to create a combination of self-created technology and third party audit. Targeting technology is constantly evolving, so it would have to be the responsibility of each member to design its own monitoring system, then have it be approved by the third party, who would also perform random spot checks.

Advocacy groups should have access to the results of the checks and the ability to request audits for specific circumstances.