Frequently Asked Questions

What is Online Behavioral Advertising (sometimes called "interest-based advertising")?

Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) uses information collected across multiple websites that you visit to predict your preferences or infer interests and to show you ads that are more likely to be of interest to you based on those inferred preferences.

What is "personally identifiable information"?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) includes name, address, telephone number, email address, financial account number, government-issued identifier, and any other data used or intended to be used to identify, contact or precisely locate a person.

What is "non-personally identifiable information"?

Non-Personally Identifiable Information (Non-PII) is information that is not used to identify, contact or precisely locate a particular individual. Used for OBA by NAI member companies, this data consists primarily of click-stream information (sites you have visited or links you have clicked) that is tied to a randomly generated anonymous user identifier.

Is PII used for OBA?

While it is possible to use PII for OBA, NAI member companies primarily use only non-PII. The NAI Code would require member companies to provide notice and to obtain consent prior to using PII for OBA.

What are cookies?

A cookie is information (a small text file) that a site saves to your computer using your web browser. Cookies make the personalization of your web experiences possible. For example, a cookie may allow sites to record your browsing activities - like what pages and content you've looked at, when you visited, and whether you clicked on an ad. Cookies can help sites remember items in your shopping cart, your log-in name, your preferences such as always showing the weather in your home town, or your high game scores. Other cookies may be placed in your browser by third-party advertising companies to help deliver the ads you see online. These "third-party cookies" may be used to “remember” parts of your online activities in order to deliver ads tailored to your interests. For example, if you read an article online about running, a cookie may be used to note your interest in running. As you continue to surf the web, you may see coupons to save money on running shoes. Learn more about cookies by reviewing our educational resources on cookies.

What are “third-party” cookies?

Cookies set by the websites you visit are typically “first-party” cookies. The sites you visit may work with ad networks or other service providers to help provide content or services, including advertising. Those partners also use cookies. But because these partners can only place cookies using their own web domains, they are called “third-party” cookies.

What are web beacons (sometimes called “pixels” or “web bugs”)?

Generally, a web beacon consists of a small string of software code that represents a graphic image request on a web page or email. There may or may not be a visible graphic image associated with the web beacon and often the image is designed to blend into the background of a web page or email. Web beacons can be used for many purposes - including site traffic reporting, unique visitor counts, advertising auditing and reporting, and personalization.

What types of companies are members of the NAI?"

Many of the banner ads displayed on web pages are not selected and delivered by the websites you visit, but by network advertising companies that manage and provide advertising for numerous unrelated websites. These companies, which we refer to as "third-party ad networks,” or “third-party ad companies,” join the NAI to signal their adherence to privacy best practices and to provide a means for consumers to opt out of OBA on the NAI website.

What choices do I have regarding online behavioral advertising?

Consumers have a variety of options available to customize their web experience regarding OBA, ranging from browser controls and add-on utilities to opt-out tools. Learn more about those options by checking out our educational resources here .

How do I know which NAI member companies have placed cookies on my computer?

The NAI opt-out tool automatically scans your computer to locate the ad targeting cookies of each of our member companies. Simply go to the opt-out page to check your system.

How does the NAI opt-out tool work?

First, the NAI opt-out tool reports which member companies have placed a cookie that can be used for OBA on your browser by checking for the presence of such cookies and reporting back whether it found any “active” cookies. Second, the opt-out tool allows you to set opt-out cookies for one or more NAI member companies. The tool does not delete individual cookies nor does it necessarily replace other cookies delivered by NAI companies, such as those that are used for ad reporting or ad serving purposes, that, for example allow advertisers to change the sequence of ads, as well as track the number of ads delivered.

Will I ever need to renew my opt-out choices or opt out again?

If you opt out of OBA by one or more NAI member company, that choice will be stored in “opt-out cookies.” The NAI requires that such opt-out cookies have a “lifespan” of at least 5 years. However, if you ever delete opt-out cookies from your browser (such as by clearing all cookies), buy a new computer, or change web browsers, you'll need to renew your opt-out choices. NAI member companies need to be able to read an "opt-out" cookie on your browser to know not to collect data for OBA purposes. We encourage you to return to the NAI opt-out page frequently to check the status of your opt-out choices, and, if desired, to opt out of OBA by member companies that may have joined the NAI after you last submitted your opt out choices. To help prevent the accidental deletion of your opt-out choices, click here to learn more about our opt-out protector utility.

Does the NAI opt-out stop spam, junk mail, or pop-ups?

No. The NAI Opt-out covers only member companies’ use of cookies to target advertising based on users’ web browsing.  We do not maintain opt-out programs for postal or electronic mail, text messages, or for pop-ups.

Can my browser settings interfere with the use of the NAI opt-out tool?

Yes. Your browser must be set to accept third-party cookies in order for the NAI opt-out tool to work. 

Attention Safari users: Apple presets the Safari browser to block cookies from sites other than those you visit directly. As a result, the NAI opt-out tool, which uses third-party cookies, generally will not work on browsers left in this default setting.

If you are using Safari and wish to use the NAI’s opt-out tool, you can change your cookie settings to allow all cookies and then use the NAI opt-out tool. Opt-out cookies for the selected NAI member companies can then be placed on your computer or device. You can change your cookie settings back after completing this action, if desired.

Click here to learn more about this issue.

Attention Internet Explorer users: Yahoo! has a security path that allows IE to block its ad network (third-party) cookies when a user's browser privacy setting is set to "Medium High" or "High." As a result, the NAI opt-out tool, which uses third-party cookies, cannot place Yahoo’s opt-out cookie for browsers that use this setting.

Click here to learn more about this issue.

Will I still get ads if I opt out using the NAI tool?

Yes. Opting out of OBA by one or more NAI member company using the NAI opt-out tool removes your browser from those companies’ OBA programs. You will still see banner ads, some of which may be delivered by NAI member companies. However, because the NAI member companies from which you have opted out will no longer use OBA data to target those ads to your computer, the ads may be less relevant.

Will using the NAI opt-out tool automatically delete all of an NAI member's cookies from my computer?

Not necessarily. Some NAI members offer services that are unrelated to OBA, and others place cookies on your browser for purposes such as ad delivery and reporting, fraud prevention, and limiting the number of times you see an ad. Opt-out cookies signal to NAI member companies not to tailor ads based on information collected across websites, but may leave the cookies used for other purposes in place.

What do I do if I have a problem with the opt-out tool?

If you encounter technical difficulties while trying to opt out, we ask that you first try again. If you continue to experience problems, please visit our support page.

What do I do if I think an NAI member has violated the NAI Code?

Please contact NAI staff! We rely in part on consumers to help identify possible violations by NAI members of the NAI Code. Click here to file a complaint about a member.

What is the NAI's policy on "Flash cookies" and similar technologies?

NAI members have confirmed that they are not using Flash cookies for online behavioral advertising (OBA). The NAI in 2010 took the position that its members should not use locally-shared objects (LSOs)* like Flash cookies for OBA, Ad Delivery & Reporting, and/or Multi-Site Advertising, until such time as web browser tools allow for the same level of transparency and control as is available today for standard HTTP cookies.

In addition to LSOs, there are other alternatives to standard HTTP cookies that may enable data collection and use for OBA, Multi-site Advertising, and Ad Delivery & Reporting purposes. The NAI generally believes that any technology used for such purposes should afford users an appropriate degree of transparency and control. This policy is consistent with the NAI's goal of providing users with insight into the specific technologies used to collect information for the purposes covered by the NAI code. This approach also affords flexibility in the future to evaluate innovative technologies not yet generally in use in the online advertising marketplace.

The web cache is one example of a browser-based technology that can be used to store persistent information. As with LSOs, the NAI takes the position that the web browser cache does not currently afford users an appropriate degree of transparency and control, and that such browser-based storage technologies should not be used by NAI members for OBA, Multi-site Advertising, or Ad Delivery & Reporting purposes until such time as these technologies allow for the same level of transparency and control as is available today for standard HTTP cookies.

*LSOs are technologies that allow for the persistent storage and retrieval of information in relationship to a user's web browsing experience, but that are typically not exposed via native browser user controls (such as those presently available for HTTP cookies). Examples include, but are not limited to, IE Browser Helper Objects (BHOs), Adobe Flash objects, and Microsoft Silverlight objects. Under the NAI's policy, LSOs may continue to be used for settings management purposes (such as user preferences and age verification).


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