Eyre pins hope on IAB code as EU probes behavioural targeting

LONDON - Richard Eyre, chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau, has said he accepts the European Union's decision to investigate behavioural targeting as "logical" but hopes that the current self-regulatory process "will satisfy everyone".

Eyre was responding to the EU's decision to investigate behavioural targeting by online advertisers, in a move that could result in legislation that overrides the code recently introduced by the IAB with the support of Ofcom and search giants Google and Microsoft.

EU officials will launch an informal consultation to collect evidence from consumers and industry on the information commercial websites are collecting and how it is being used. Concern centres on the growing use of ‘deep packet inspection' technologies that allow broadband providers to track online activity even after consumer have tried to control the use of cookies.

The EU consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva is this week expected to say website terms and conditions frequently breach privacy standards.

Eyre said that he understood that the EU had to have a point of view on the issue because behavioural targeting is a new tool about which the general public is still forming its opinion.

However he hopes the self-regulatory code on behavioural targeting recently introduced by the IAB will satisfy everyone. Eyre said: "It is very easy to dismiss the issues as an invasion of privacy but the fact is that behavioural targeting is going to be the future of the internet."

Eyre told ISBA's annual conference recently that behavioural targeting would be a "game-changer" for advertisers. 

Stephen Groom, head of marketing and privacy law at solicitors Osborne Clarke, said that there is a strong argument for behavioural targeting to be opt-in, which until recently looked like a possibility.

This had changed with the IAB code, which is based on the opt-out principle, but Groom warned that any EU legislation would override the IAB's guidelines.

Earlier this month internet giants including Google and Microsoft signed up to the IAB's behavioural targeting code, which is supported by Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards and the Information Commissioner's Office.

The Good Practice Principles include clearly informing a consumer that data is being collected and used for that purpose and providing an opt-out option for users to decline behavioural ads.