Online Behavioral Advertising

Dominique Shelton

©2012. Published in Landslide, Vol. 5, No. 1, September/October 2012, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

2012 began with over 100 consumer class actions pending in the U.S. courts, relating to companies tracking users’ behavior online and on mobile devices in order to create targeted advertisements. Targeted advertising has become global and ubiquitous.

Online behavioral advertising (OBA) is a type of targeted advertising, by which companies track consumers’ online activities to target them for digital advertising directed at their specific interests. Digital advertising is an $80.2 billion industry.1 With online ad spending now exceeding that of print advertising, the appropriateness of using OBA, particularly the level of notice afforded and consent required of consumers, is increasingly being scrutinized. Other forms of tracking customer online behavior also are under attack. In December 2011 alone, over 60 class actions were filed against the mobile industry for tracking user behavior for internal analytics and measurement purposes, rather than for advertising purposes.


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