Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For answers to questions about online interest-based advertising and how the opt-out page works, please visit the following FAQ topic areas:

Online Interest-Based Advertising FAQ:

Technical Support for the Consumer Opt-Out Page:

Opt-Out Tool Help

For a step-by-step guide on how to use the opt-out page, visit our tool’s help section.

Tool Help Section

Online Interest-Based Advertising FAQ

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

Online interest-based advertising – which is also sometimes called “online behavioural advertising” – uses information gathered through your browser about your visits over time and across different websites 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 sites, or an airline might direct ads to users that recently visited travel sites.

How does online interest-based advertising work?

When a user visits 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 user’s web browser. The cookie allows the advertising network or marketing company to tell when that same browser visits other websites in 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 the user’s likely interest in particular categories of ads: for example, users who frequently visit baseball-related websites might receive more ads for the “baseball/sports enthusiast” category, or users who visit automobile review sites 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.

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. Many non-subscription websites and online services rely on this type of advertising for revenue, in order to not have to charge users for viewing or using content. Every time you check the news or the weather online, scan your favourite gossip site, political blog, or watch a popular TV show or music video 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 of the websites online, 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 tools, 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. If you like hockey, you might want a ticket offer to a hockey game and not to a football game. Those relevant ads improve the online experience and help users find the things that interest them more easily.

How can I learn more about online interest-based advertising and how it works?

There are some excellent online tutorials and educational materials about the online advertising ecosystem and how it works, which you can review on our Understanding Online Advertising page. There is also a wealth of information found within this FAQ.

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 later. You can use the preferences in your browser to view and control the cookies you have.

Cookies help websites remember visitors when they return to the site. For example, a cookie can help a website remember your computer’s location, so it can show your local news or weather when you return, or it can remind a site that you’ve already registered, so you don’t have to sign in again each time you visit. 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. Cookies provide information about how many times an advertisement has been seen, which browsers have received it, and what sites were being visited when it appeared. They 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 can I do if I don’t want to receive online interest-based advertising?

You can opt out of receiving online behavioural 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 behavioural advertising. They may, however, continue to serve online advertising on the pages you visit that do not use online behavioural information. Learn more.

In addition to the opt-out mechanism 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. For more information on those options, you can learn about your browser’s privacy control settings.

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

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

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) has agreed to implement the accountability programs for participating companies. All of these associations, as well as the registrants of the self-regulatory program, have agreed to help promote widespread industry adoption of the program.

Do the program’s principles cover all online advertising?

No. The principles cover only those 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 sites;
  • Contextual advertising, which is advertising based on the content of the webpage being visited, a consumer’s current visit to a webpage, 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.

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 “icon” to be placed on or near online advertisements that links users to information about online interest-based advertising. When the icon is clicked, the consumer is able to identify the companies involved in serving such ads to them, and see a description of each company’s data collection and use practices. The icon should also link users to a choice mechanism they can use to opt out of future online interest-based advertising.

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

An example of what the icon looks like (enlarged) is below:

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

The online advertising system 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.

One goal of this program is to better explain the process and to identify the companies that are involved in the distribution of online interest-based advertising to users 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. In addition, the 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.

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 IBA without consent, as required and otherwise in accordance with applicable Canadian privacy legislation.

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

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

Under the principles, entities should not collect personal information for 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 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.

How does the program ensure that participating companies comply?

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), the independent advertising self-regulatory body, monitors companies participating in the program for compliance with the principles, and works cooperatively with them to effect compliance. ASC also accepts and responds to complaints about practices that may not comply with the principles.

Consumer Opt-Out Page FAQ

How does the consumer opt-out page work?

Companies that engage in online interest-based advertising and participate in the 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 tool.

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 companies that do not participate in the program, or provide opt outs to any form of advertising provided by these non-participating companies.

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

Will the consumer opt-out page keep me from receiving all ads or email advertisements?


The opt outs available through the consumer opt-out page apply only to online interest-based advertising 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 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 they are visiting (known as “contextual” or “content-based” advertising), or other types of information (for example, demographic or general computer browser location information). You may still receive interest-based advertising from companies you do not opt out of.

The opt outs provided on the consumer opt-out page do not apply to electronic email (“spam” or otherwise) or postal mail.

To learn more about how a particular website collects or uses data for other types of advertising, users should review the privacy policies of the websites that they visit.

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

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 certain companies on the consumer opt-out page, those companies place an “opt out” cookie in the user’s browser to tell the company 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.

Does opting out stop participating companies from collecting any data?


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.

After you opt out, participating companies and the websites 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 and websites 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 U.S. AdChoices programs require that their participating companies NOT use Flash cookies or similar locally-shared objects for online behavioural advertising.

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?


Your browser must be set to accept third party cookies in order for the consumer opt-out page to properly 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?


The opt out preferences set by the consumer opt-out page 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 users the ability to remember their opt out preferences across browsers and devices if they establish a user account that they use to log in to each browser or device. Please review the member company information for further details.

Technical Support for the Consumer Opt-Out Page

“Cookies” And The consumer opt-out page

Cookies are small text files stored in your web browser, that save information associated with particular websites or domains.

In order to function, the consumer opt-out page requires that both first-party and third-party cookies be enabled in your web browser.

First-party cookies are those set by the website you are visiting (in this case, the consumer opt-out page). Cookies must be enabled so that participating companies can check your web browser to determine if interest-based advertising is enabled, and so that your requested opt outs can be set with various companies.

Third-party cookies are those set by web service providers other than the website you are visiting. These cookies furnish widgets, advertisements, or other content to the webpage you are visiting. On the consumer opt-out page, all of the participating companies in the cross-industry program 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.

JavaScript and the consumer opt-out page

The consumer opt-out page requires JavaScript to be enabled in your web browser.

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 Canadian self-regulatory program for online interest-based advertising.

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 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. For Chrome, click the three horizontal bars on the top right of the browser, choose “Help” and “About Google Chrome”. For Internet Explorer, click on the “Help” link in the menu bar, and then click “About Internet Explorer”.

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

iPad users will find there is no scroll bar visible for the list of participating companies, but can review the list using two-finger scrolling (swipe two fingers up or down the list of companies in order to scroll).

Your internet connection and the consumer opt-out page

You must be connected to the Internet to use the consumer opt-out page. Certain proxy, firewall, VPN, or other configurations may interfere with the functionality of the consumer opt-out page.

If you are having problems using the consumer opt-out page, and are unsure whether this applies to you, ask your internet service provider or system administrator.

Additionally, you may experience difficulties with the consumer opt-out page if you are using a very slow Internet connection.

System requirements for using the consumer opt-out page

The consumer opt-out page 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.