Key To Opting Out Of Personalized Ads, Hidden In Plain View

by Alina Tugend, New York Times

Electronic Frontier Foundation/Creative Commons

Electronic Frontier Foundation/Creative Commons

It has been seen countless times, yet it may be the advertising industry’s best-kept secret. What exactly is that small turquoise triangle, often in the upper right corner, that appears in many online ads?

It is the logo for AdChoices, and the idea is that if consumers do not like the personalized ads they are seeing — those that pop up based on information gathered from their browsing history or habits — they can click on the symbol, and it will take them to a page that explains how they can opt out of seeing them.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, the organization behind AdChoices, likes to boast that the AdChoices logo is seen more than a trillion times every month and that it is “a great, effective program that’s one of its kind,” said Lou Mastria, executive director of the organization. He added that there have been eight million unique opt-outs since AdChoices began.

But a study this year by the advertising agency Kelly Scott Madison found that while 26 percent of web users said they were fam»iliar with the AdChoices logo, only 9 percent of those understood what it meant.

“I think the intent of AdChoices was really good, and the purpose was very well intentioned, but the consumer education piece never happened,” said Kay Wesolowski, digital media director of Kelly Scott Madison.

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