The Internet Advertising Bureau has published its guidelines on controversial targeted adverts which monitor users' behaviour online and provides them with appropriate adverts.

The controversy over trials of Phorm by BT has yet to die down, but the IAB is hoping that a clear code of conduct – which has been signed up to by Phorm, AOL, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo amongst others – will ease public concerns.

The three key rules for what it terms Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) are:

1. Notice

"Each Member shall provide clear and unambiguous notice to users that it collects data for the purposes of OBA. This notice shall include information about what types of data are collected, how these data are being used and how users can decline OBA," says the IAB guidelines

This will also apply to partners of the members, and members are also urged to give reasonable notice to any material change to its privacy policy.

2. User Choice

IAB guidelines state: "Each Member shall provide an approved means for consumers to decline OBA from that Member." On top of this "Each Member shall provide information on how to decline OBA with respect to that Member and ensure that this information is prominently displayed and easily accessible on its website."

"If a user chooses to decline OBA, the Member will cease to provide OBA." However, "The collection and use of data, however, may continue for other legitimate purposes declared in the Member's privacy policy or for which the data subject has already given his/her consent and non-behaviourally targeted advertisements will continue to be served."

3. User Education

"Each Member shall make information available to educate users about OBA and ensure that this information is easily accessible. This may include information provided to users in easily understandable language and user friendly format about the collection and use of data and how to decline OBA," adds the guideline document.

The policy is certainly a step in the right direction – but despite being one of the key directives it is the lack of education for people that may remain a concern – with people signing up to services whilst still unsure as to what they are agreeing.

The ire at BT for a trial of the service that did not ask permission has yet to fade, but it will be interesting to see if giving people a clear and obvious option to withdraw from targeted advertising means that significant numbers do indeed opt out.

From IAB via BBC