What is it?
Digital Advertising is a broad term used to describe the paid advertising that publishers put on their websites, apps, or televisions to enable them to provide you content and services for free. But what most people hear about is a specific type of online advertising that is tailored to your likely interests by companies promoting their products or services. This is known as Interest-Based Advertising (IBA), when it occurs across websites, and Cross-App Advertising (CAA), when it occurs across apps, and Viewed Content Advertising (VCA) when it occurs on smart TVs and TV streaming devices.
Tailored Advertising is why you see ads that are relevant to you. With this type of advertising, NAI member companies and advertisers collect information across some of the sites you visit and apps that you use. They then use this information to try to predict what ads might be the most interesting to you.
Essentially, the free websites and apps you enjoy may be used to help serve ads that you would find more meaningful, informative, and interesting, than would the person sitting next to you. Reading an article about travel? You’ll probably see ads for travel shortly after. Check out a musician’s website? You might get some ads for music popping up soon too.
Tailored Advertising doesn’t depend on information that may be personally identified to you, such as your name, phone number, Social Security number, etc. In fact, most third-party companies don’t want to know who you are for Tailored Advertising. They only want to link interest categories (loves travel) or demographic data (male under 30) with your browser so that they can serve up relevant ads. Of course, different companies use different methods of Tailored Advertising.
Similarly, advertisers generally don’t want to know your mobile device’s permanent identifier to serve you relevant ads. Most modern mobile operating systems contain Mobile Advertising Identifiers, or more temporary identifiers, that have built-in privacy controls. For example, the advertising IDs on Android, Windows, and iOS devices have options to opt-out of interest-based advertising or cross-app advertising and they have an option for you to change your advertising identifier. Advertisers are contractually required to use these privacy-friendly Mobile Advertising Identifiers, instead of your actual device identifier. This means you have control over whether ads are relevant to you.
Mobile browsers currently don’t use the Mobile Advertising Identifiers and instead, use standard browser identifiers (often, cookies). This means your choices apply to each browser and mobile identifier separately.
Device-Identified Information (DII) is any data that is linked to a particular browser or device if that data is not used, or intended to be used, to directly identify a particular individual. Used for Tailored Advertising by NAI member companies, this data consists primarily of click-stream information (sites you have visited or links you have clicked) that, when using HTTP Cookies, is tied to a randomly generated anonymous identifier.
As a general rule, Tailored Advertising does not depend on information that personally identifies you, such as your name, e-mail address, phone number, photographs, etc. Rather than using Personally Identified Information, most Tailored Advertising uses randomly-generated numbers to match your web browser or mobile device with interest categories. In some cases, Personally Identified Information is used to bring interest categories online, but NAI member companies take measures to keep Personally Identified Information separate from online browsing activities.
Interest-Based Advertising uses information collected across multiple websites to predict your preferences or infer your interests and to show you ads that are more likely to be of interest to you.
Personally Identified Information (PII) includes name, address, telephone number, email address, financial account number, non-publicly available government-issued identifier, and any other data that is linked, or intended to be linked to contact, or precisely locate a person. The NAI Codes provide disincentives to the use of PII for Tailored Advertising. As a result, NAI member companies generally use only information that is not PII for Tailored Advertising and do not merge the DII they collect for Tailored Advertising with users’ PII.