Online Interest-Based
Advertising FAQ

What is online interest-based (or online behavioural) advertising?

Online interest-based advertising – also called “online behavioural advertising” – uses information gathered through your browser or mobile device about your visits over time and across different websites and apps in order to help predict your preferences and show you ads that are more likely to be of interest to you.

For example, a sporting goods manufacturer might work with an advertising network that collects and uses online interest-based advertising information to deliver ads to the browsers of users that have recently visited sports-related websites, or an airline might direct ads to users that recently visited travel websites.

How does online interest-based advertising work?

When you visit a website that participates in an advertising network or works with other online advertising companies, these advertising companies place a small piece of computer text — called a “cookie” – in the web browser. The cookie allows the advertising network or marketing company to tell when that same browser visits other websites on the same network, even if the websites are run by different companies or have different web addresses or brands.

Over time, the information gathered through the browser and associated with the cookie may help predict your likely interest in particular categories of ads: for example, users who frequently visit baseball-related websites might receive more ads for a “sports enthusiast” category, or users who visit automobile review websites might receive more ads for the particular models of cars that interest them.

The process of serving ads to particular users, based on their predicted interests, relies on recognizing the cookies stored in users’ browsers or on advertising IDs associated with mobile devices.

What are the benefits of online interest-based advertising for me?

The most important benefit of online interest-based advertising is the ability to obtain a vast array of content, services, and applications over the web and from apps.

Many non-subscription websites, online services, and apps rely on this type of advertising for revenue in order to not have to charge users for viewing or using their content. Every time you check the news or the weather online, scan entertainment news, read political blogs, or watch a popular TV shows or music videos on your computer, you are seeing the consumer benefits of online advertising at work.

Put another way, advertising is the financial engine that powers most websites and apps, and online interest-based advertising is a significant part of that economic model. Without online interest-based advertising, some websites and services might have to start charging users, and others would not be able to continue delivering the innovative online services that they currently do.

There’s another benefit of online interest-based advertising for users as well: better ads. When advertisers use online interest-based advertising, you get ads that are more interesting, relevant, and useful to you. If you’re a college student, for example, you might be more interested in seeing ads for spring break destinations than for retirement homes. Music lovers may want to see their favourite band is coming to town. These relevant ads improve the online experience and help users find the things that interest them more easily.

What are cookies and how are they used in online advertising?

Cookies are small pieces of text that are placed on your hard drive by the websites you visit and the advertising companies and partners for those sites. Only the website or ad company that sets a cookie can read it. You can use the preferences in your browser to view and control the cookies you currently have set.

Most commonly, cookies help websites remember visitors when they return to their site. A cookie can help remember your login, and it can also remember your computer’s location so that the website can show your local news or weather when you return, or it can remind you what you placed in your online shopping cart. In short, cookies are used to customize websites for you based on the preferences you’ve chosen, and through predictions about the type of content that might interest you.

In the advertising world, cookies are used in many different ways. Online advertising companies use cookies to help deliver ads and track their performance, they can provide information about how many times an advertisement has been seen, which browsers have received an ad, and what sites were being visited when an ad appeared. Cookies can also help predict which type of advertisements might be of interest to users in the future, and help advertising companies recognize the browsers of users so that these ads can be delivered to them.

What is the difference between first party cookies and third party cookies?

First-party cookies are those set by a website you are visiting. They are often used to remember your preferences with that particular website.

Third-party cookies are those set by companies other than the website you are visiting. These cookies furnish widgets, advertisements, social plug-ins or other content to the webpage you are visiting. On the consumer opt-out page, all of the participating companies in the tools are treated as third-parties, and therefore third-party cookies must be enabled in order for the companies to be able to report your status and to set your requested opt outs.

Note that Apple’s Safari web browser disables third-party cookies by default.

What are mobile advertising IDs and how do they differ from cookies?

Mobile advertising IDs operate like cookies do in browsers but with a few key differences.

Cookies are set by websites, publishers or ad networks, each maintaining their own cookie that only they can read. Mobile advertising IDs are set by the mobile device’s operating system (Apple/Android) and that ID is across all apps used on the device. It is a persistent ID and serves as the main conduit for mobile advertising and analytics.

What can I do if I don’t want to receive online interest-based advertising?

You can opt out of receiving interest-based advertising from the companies currently participating in the AdChoices program. After you opt out, the companies will no longer collect and use information about your browser’s online activities for the purpose of online interest-based advertising. They may, however, continue to serve online advertising on the pages you visit that do not use interest based advertising. Opting out using our tools does not stop ads from showing, but it helps limit or stop the backend data collection and use from happening with the companies listed.

In addition to the opt-out tools provided by companies participating in the program, most browsers also include controls through which users can decide which cookies they wish to allow, and whether and/or how often they would like such cookies deleted.

On mobile devices, interest-based advertising operates a little differently. By resetting your advertising ID on a device, you may still get interest-based advertising because you have not communicated to the companies involved that you want to opt-out, you’ve just reset your advertising ID. That’s why we recommend you use our free app called AppChoices. It does not collect any data from your device for advertising purposes, what it does do is surface and list for you the companies collecting or using your advertising ID for interest-based advertising and allows you to learn more about those companies and opt-out.

What are the Canadian self-regulatory principles for online interest-based advertising?

The Canadian self-regulatory principles for online interest-based advertising is an effort by many of the nation’s largest marketing and advertising trade associations to give consumers more information and control over the advertising they receive online.

The self-regulatory program requires companies to clearly inform consumers about their data collection and use practices and to enable consumers to exercise greater control over the types of ads they see.

This website serves as a central element of that program by offering consumers the ability to opt out of interest-based advertising from a wide range of participating companies through a single page. The associations that have developed this program are eight of the largest marketing and media associations in Canada:

  • Association des agences de communication créative (A2C);
  • Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA);
  • Canadian Marketing Association (CMA);
  • Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC);
  • Le Conseil des directeurs médias du Québec (CDMQ);
  • Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA); and,
  • Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IAB Canada).
  • Ad Standards implements the accountability program for the DAAC’s self-regulatory program.

All of these associations, as well as the registrants of the AdChoices self-regulatory program in Canada, have agreed to help promote widespread industry adoption of the program.

Do the program’s principles cover all online advertising?

No. The DAAC principles cover only activities that are defined in the principles as interest-based advertising (IBA). IBA does not include:

  • Activities of first parties that are limited to their own websites or apps;
  • Contextual advertising, which is advertising based on the content of the webpage being visited, a consumer’s current visit to a webpage or app, or a search query;
  • Ad reporting, the collection or use of information for statistical reporting, web analytics/analysis, and advertising metrics; or
  • Ad delivery, the distribution or delivery of online advertisements, or advertising-related services using ad reporting data and not based on user preferences inferred from information collected over time and across websites or apps.

What is the AdChoices icon and what does it tell me about online behavioural advertising?

A central element of the Canadian self-regulatory principles for online behavioural advertising is the clickable blue triangular icon that is placed on or near online advertisements and that links to information about online interest-based advertising.

When the icon is clicked, you should be able to identify the companies involved in serving the ad and see a description of each company’s data collection and use practices. The icon should also link to a choice mechanism that can be used to opt out of future online interest-based advertising.

If you click or tap on the icon, you will learn more about the ad and your online interest-based advertising choices.

How does the program limit the sharing of information between online advertising companies?

The online advertising ecosystem involves hundreds of companies that play different roles and use data in different ways. Some companies operate the websites that you visit, while others run ad networks that distribute ads to those sites, track the performance of those ads, provide data to help better match ads to groups of users, or auction ads through real-time ad exchanges, among other activities.

A goal of the AdChoices self-regulatory program is to better explain the process to the public, and to identify the companies that are involved in the distribution of online interest-based advertising through tools like the clickable icon inside or near the ad you view, and a choice mechanism enabling you to research and/or opt out of future online interest-based advertising.

This self-regulatory program seeks to ensure that if you opt out of having your information used for online interest-based advertising, information about your likely interests will no longer be shared with other companies and that opting-out means data collection stops.

How does the program limit the uses of sensitive information for online interest-based advertising?

Under Canadian privacy legislation, express consent is required for the collection, use, and disclosure of sensitive personal information, such as certain financial or health information.

Under the principles, entities should not collect and use sensitive personal information for interest-based advertising without consent, as required and otherwise in accordance with applicable Canadian privacy legislation.

Accordingly, the opt out approach for interest-based advertising set out in our self-regulatory framework would not be sufficient for the collection and use of sensitive personal information for interest-based advertising purposes under Canadian privacy legislation.

In short, sensitive data should not be used for interest-based advertising without express opt-in consent.

How does the program limit interest-based advertising to children?

Under the DAAC principles, entities should not collect personal information for interest-based advertising (IBA) purposes from children they have actual knowledge are under the age of 13 or from sites directed to children under the age of 13 for IBA, or otherwise engage in IBA directed to children they have actual knowledge are under the age of 13, unless such collection and other treatment of personal information is in accordance with Canadian privacy legislation.

Where can I find out more details about the participating companies?

Each of the companies participating in the Canadian program furnishes information about its business and privacy practices. To review the information provided by a particular participating company, click on the company name in the consumer opt-out tool. To see who is participating in the DAAC’s AdChoices self-regulatory program for online interest-based advertising, go to our participating companies' page where each logo may be clicked or tapped so that you can visit their websites.

How does the program ensure that participating companies comply?

Ad Standards, the independent advertising self-regulatory body, monitors companies participating in the DAAC’s AdChoices self-regulatory program for compliance with the DAAC principles, and works cooperatively with the companies involved to effect compliance. Ad Standards also accepts and responds to complaints about practices that may not comply with the DAAC principles.

 

Opt-Out Tools FAQ

How do the opt-out tools work?

Companies that engage in online interest-based advertising and participate in the AdChoices self-regulatory program are required to provide consumers with an easy-to-use mechanism for exercising choice about the collection and use of information for online interest-based advertising, or to the transfer of such information to companies for this purpose.

The consumer opt-out page available through this website lists the opt-out mechanisms provided by participating companies (both in Canada and in the US), offering visitors a “one-stop” platform through which to opt out from receiving online behavioural advertising from some, or all, of the companies listed on the tools. There is WebChoices, which is a cookie-based opt-out tool and AppChoices which is a tool to help limit cross-app interest-based advertising.

Additionally, the consumer opt-out page provides useful information about visitors’ browser status with respect to cookies used for online interest-based advertising, including information about which participating companies are already customizing ads for a user’s browser or whether a visitor’s browser is already opted-out from some participating companies’ interest-based ads.

The consumer opt-out page does not, however, provide information about online interest-based advertising from companies that do not participate in the program, or provide opt outs to any form of advertising provided by these non-participating companies. We encourage the industry to use our tools, but they may have their own tools you need to seek out on your own if you don’t find a company listed.

The DAAC encourages all companies who utilize online behavioural advertising to register to become part of this self-regulatory program.

Will the opt-out tools block ads or email advertisements?

No.

The opt outs available through the consumer opt-out page apply only to online interest-based advertising practices from the participating companies and do not apply to other types of banner ads provided by these companies (i.e. ads that are served without any interest-based targeting mechanisms applied).

For example, after opting-out of online interest-based advertising from a participating company, you will no longer receive ads that are using interest-based advertising data from your cookies/advertising IDS from that company, but you may still receive other banner advertising from that company, including ads selected on the basis of the content of the webpage you are visiting (known as “contextual” or “content-based” advertising), or analytics data. You may still receive interest-based advertising from companies you do not opt out of.

The opt-out tools do not apply to electronic email (“spam” or otherwise) or postal mail.

To learn more about how a particular website or app collects or uses data for advertising (or otherwise) you should always review their privacy policies. If they don’t have a publically posted privacy policy, don’t use the website or app.

What are opt out cookies and how do they remember opt out preferences?

Many online companies use cookies to remember users’ preferences about the collection and use of data for online interest-based advertising. These “opt out cookies” help the participating companies to recognize users who have opted-out of receiving such advertising and to respect that choice.

When a user chooses not to receive online interest-based advertising from companies in the opt-out tool called WebChoices, those companies place an “opt out” cookie in the user’s browser to tell the companies not to deliver such advertising in the future. Opt out cookies storing such preferences remain in effect for the user’s browser unless these opt out cookies are deleted (as can happen if a user deletes all of their cookies using browser tools). Users should visit the consumer opt-out page periodically to review or update their browser preferences or to set preferences for new participating companies. The process is similar in the app environment using AppChoices. Companies that are collecting or using interest-based advertising on a mobile device using the device’s advertising ID. The advertising ID should not be reset, as opt-out preferences will be lost.

Does opting out stop participating companies from collecting any data?

No.

Opting out tells the participating companies to stop delivering interest-based advertisements to that browser. Other types of advertisements – including “contextual” or “content-based” advertising – will continue to be delivered to the browser or in an app.

After you opt out, participating companies and the websites and apps you visit may continue to collect and use information for purposes other than online interest-based advertising. For example, participating companies may still collect and use advertising data to measure the number of ads served for a particular campaign, to limit the number of times a particular ad is served to a unique browser, or to prevent fraud. In some cases, automated systems will continue to collect other data about browser visits, but when a consumer opts-out, that data will no longer be used to deliver interest-based advertising.

In addition, data may be collected and used by participating companies for a variety of purposes unrelated to advertising, including the operation of online products and services (like recognizing a return visitor to an online email account or social networking service, etc.).

Does the consumer opt-out page give me choices about the use of Flash cookies for online interest-based advertising?

Flash cookies are a technology that can function similarly to a browser cookie, by allowing a piece of information to be stored on a user’s computer. Because Flash cookies cannot currently be seen through most browser tools and cannot be turned off via a browser’s privacy settings, both the Canadian and US AdChoices programs require that their participating companies NOT use Flash cookies or similar locally-shared objects for online behavioural advertising unless they provide an opt-out mechanism, ideally available through our public tools.

If you would like to see the Flash cookies in your browser, please visit the Flash cookies setting tool.

Will the opt-out page work if my browser is set to block third party cookies?

No.

Your browser must be set to accept third party cookies in order for the consumer opt-out page to display status results and to set opt out preferences for your browser. The following links show how to adjust the browser settings of commonly used browsers:

Does the opt-out page set preferences for every computer that I use?

No.

The opt-out preferences set by the tools we offer are associated with cookies in the browser that you use to set those preferences, not with you as an individual. When you use a different browser, you will need to visit the consumer opt-out page to review your status and set your preferences for that browser.

Some of our participating companies may offer you the ability to remember your opt-out preferences across browsers and devices you use if they establish a user account that you use to log in to each browser or device. Please review the company’s information for further details on how opt-outs work when you are using one login for multiple devices.

 

Technical Support for the Opt-Out Tools

JavaScript and the consumer opt-out page

The cookie-based consumer opt-out tool (WebChoices) requires JavaScript to be enabled in your web browser to work.

JavaScript is a standard web technology used on most modern webpages which enables much of the functionality and interactivity available on the web today.

The consumer opt-out page uses JavaScript to show an easy-to-navigate representation of your web browser’s status with regard to interest-based advertising by the companies participating in the WebChoices tool.

Web browsers supported by the consumer opt-out page

The consumer opt-out page is intended for recent versions of the most widely-used desktop web browsers, including Internet Explorer 7 and higher, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Internet Explorer 6 is NOT supported. If you use Internet Explorer 6, you may experience problems with the display and functionality of the consumer opt-out page. We recommend that you upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 or later, or to another supported browser.

To find out what browser version you are using, click into the tool area of your browser’s menu and find the “Help” section. This section will detail to you what browser version you are currently running.

Safari is set by default to block third-party cookies, which must be enabled for the consumer opt-out tool (WebChoices) to operate.

Your internet connection and the consumer opt-out page

You must be connected to the internet to use the consumer opt-out tool (WebChoices). Certain proxy, firewall, VPN, or other configurations may interfere with the functionality of WebChoices.

If you are having problems using WebChoices, and are unsure whether this applies to you, ask your internet service provider or system administrator.

Additionally, you may experience difficulties with WebChoices if you are using a very slow internet connection.

Updates to the tool happen frequently, so please revisit the tool at a later time if it is not functioning correctly.

System requirements for using WebChoices

The cookie-based consumer opt-out tool (WebChoices) requires certain web technologies to be available:

  • An internet connection (slow connections, or connections behind firewalls or proxies, may experience difficulties);

  • Desktop web browser (Internet Explorer 7 and higher, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari);

  • A browser that accepts both first-party and third-party cookies; and

  • JavaScript.

What are the devices that are supported by AppChoices?

iOS All iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices with iOS 8 or higher.

Android More than 11,000 phone, tablet and player devices with Android 2.3 or higher, including:

  • Samsung Galaxy series (S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7, Note, Note 2, Note 3, Note 4, Note 5, etc.)
  • Nexus series
  • Sony Xperia (Z1, Z2, Z3, Z4, Z5, X, XA, M4, etc.)
  • LG (G2, G3, G4, G5, Optimus 3D, Optimus 4X HD, etc.)
  • HTC (One, One X, One S, Sensation XE, Optimus 2X, EVO 3D, Desire HD, etc.)
  • Asus Transformer Pad (TF700T, TF300T, etc.)
  • Amazon Kindle Fire series
  • Motorola (Xoom, X515m, XT910, Atrix 4G, DROID RAZR, Droid Turbo, etc.)

How does the Apple iOS Limit Ad Tracking feature affect AppChoices?

The DAAC offers a free app, called AppChoices, through which participating companies provide transparency and choice under the DAAC’s principles for interest-based advertising. Users of mobile devices can express their preferences about ads based on their interests via AppChoices, or other device-specific settings. For instance, the iOS platform also provides a “Limit Ad Tracking” feature.

For iOS users who enable “Limit Ad Tracking” (“LAT”), iOS 10 disables its unique platform advertising ID that AppChoices previously used to help store your opt out preferences. As a result, new users of AppChoices who have enabled LAT will not be able to set any opt out preferences through this app unless the LAT setting is switched off in iOS settings. Similarly, existing users of AppChoices who enable LAT will disable their previously expressed AppChoices preferences. Existing users of AppChoices will not be able to reset their AppChoices preferences until LAT is switched off.