ARLINGTON: The US online advertising industry has released the first results of its self-regulation initiative, with six firms having been forced to change their practices.

The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program was set up in August 2011 by the National Advertising Review Council to safeguard users' privacy over behavioural targeting in digital ads.

It is operated by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), a trade group funded by private firms. In the announcement, the CBBB said that six firms had now changed their policies as a result of its actions.

The intervention focused on the firms' "opt-out cookies", text files which are dropped on the user's hard disk when they choose to opt out of receiving tracking cookies from a website. These "opt-outs" prevent cookies being dropped on the hard disk in future for a set length of time.

The industry standard, set down in the founding Principles of the initiative, is for a five-year opt-out period, but the CBBB found opt-outs lasting as little as one month, and others for which the mechanism was inaccessible or confusing.

In comments accompanying the announcement, Genie Barton, CBBB vice president and director of the accountability program, said: "We are encouraged that each of the companies under review has participated in the self-regulatory process and quickly brought their practices into compliance."

Speaking to the Washington Post, Barton added: "I was very happily surprised at how quickly these companies responded and how positively they responded ... I think that independent enforcement demonstrates that self-regulation can work and that it is being taken very seriously by this program."

Data sourced from CBBB/Washington Post; additional content by Warc staff