Do Not Track opt-out icon coming to mobile browsers

Digital Advertising Alliance, which brought the "AdChoice" opt-out icon to desktop Web ads, is now working on a mobile option.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read
An advertisement promoting the "AdChoices" logo. Digital Advertising Alliance

While browsing the Internet on desktop computers, people may have seen a little blue icon floating near ads. This clickable icon, dubbed "AdChoice," is meant to give users information about targeted ads and the data collected by ads; it also gives users a Do Not Track option. Now, the group that brought AdChoice to desktop is developing the same icon for mobile.

The group behind the icon, Digital Advertising Alliance, or DAA, is a coalition of advertisers, publishers, and marketers that has been working to increase transparency on the Web and create controls for online advertising.

AdChoice for desktop is now in nearly 30 countries worldwide and, according to DAA, appears on the Web one trillion times per month.

"What the icon program does is take the disclosures and puts them in prime real estate places," DAA Managing Director Lou Mastria told CNET. "This is happening in real time. You get a pretty fair sense of how that ad got there and what you're privacy choices are."

The idea of Do Not Track is to give users the option of opting out of having advertisers and data brokers collect information on them regarding Web sites visited, search queries, purchasing patterns, and more.

DAA isn't the only group working on the issue. Several other organizations and politicians have been working on Do Not Track measures. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller proposed a "Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013" in February, and the W3C Working Group has also been working on a Do Not Track policy for years.

When DAA was first developing AdChoice for desktop in 2009, it worked with recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission. With these recommendations, the group created a set of principles that advertisers and ad networks have to adhere to when delivering online advertising.

"What the FTC said in 2009 is that there needs to be mechanisms in place for consumers to know what's going on with the data that drives behavioral advertising," Mastria said. "There was no centralized platform, it was just a recommendation. DAA turned that recommendation into an enforceable code."

Since the launch of AdChoice, Mastria said 2 million people have opted-out of being part of targeted advertising and third-party data collecting on desktop computers. That number will most likely grow with the move to mobile.

"With one click of a button, consumers can stop tracking from happening," DAA general counsel Stuart Ingis told CNET. "The icon is now going to apply online and across all mobile devices. This tool provides transparency and choice to not be tracked online or a mobile device."

The mobile AdChoice will most likely come in the form of an app that users can click for the opt-out option. Products that collect all data, like operating systems, browsers, and tool bars, will be subject to a consent standard; third-party entities that collect location data will also be required to consent. Additionally, any data collection for employment use, health care, insurance, and financial credit is prohibited.

While millions of people have opted-out of being tracked by online advertisers, 70 percent of people say they don't mind seeing ads tailored to their interests, according to DAA. Ingis said that most people are okay with their data being collected as long as privacy controls are in place and they are safe from identity theft, viruses, and malware.

AdChoice for mobile is still in the development phase, DAA estimates that it will roll out sometime next year.