Internet users can opt out of targeted adverts that follow them online
INTERNET users will be able to avoid tracking devices that allow advertisers to follow their movements online under new guidelines.
A new on-screen “icon” will enable users to choose what advertising is pitched to them while they surf the internet following a surge in complaints about targeted advertising online.
Under the plans, which will come into force by the summer, a new symbol will feature the letter “I” inside a triangle on online adverts generated by “cookies”.
These are used by web companies to create profiles based on a person’s shopping or viewing habits on the internet. The data is then used for “Online Behavioural Advertising”.
Experts say internet users find the technique intrusive. It allows companies to direct their display adverts at individuals who, through the websites they have visited, have indicated an interest in certain goods or services.
But the warning system, to be introduced by the European Advertising Standards Alliance and the internet Advertising Bureau of Europe, will allow users to “opt out” of such advertising.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is helping develop the icon. Those who click on the icon will be given the chance to opt-out entirely from interest-based adverts or select the advertising categories they would like to view.
Users would be able to create profiles that could tailor what advertising they saw online. Guy Parker, the ASA chief executive, said the icon would give users new powers to chose “personalised advertising”.
“Members of the public will become more aware of Online Behavioural Advertising and will be able to exercise their choice not to receive it,” he said.
Similar measures introduced in America had reassured users about the use of such “cookies” and as a result advertising profiles were more accurately reflected.
“All the experience shows that when companies take the time and trouble to explain to consumers what they are doing, consumers understand it,” he said. “People end up providing a more accurate profile of themselves.”
Some websites, such as Yahoo!, have begun using the triangle icon on a voluntary basis but from June all advertising networks will be required to display the symbol or face sanctions.
The advertising watchdog has experienced a 40pc rise in complaints over adverts in a year.