Below is a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand behavioural advertising.

Online behavioural advertising is a way of using anonymous information about web browsing activity to group Internet enabled devices into interest groups and serve advertisements based upon those interests.

Behavioural advertising differs from other forms of advertising on the internet such as contextual advertising, which is provided in response to your current, session-based activities (including search queries or websites visited).

 How does it work?

There are different ways to provide behavioural advertising. At a basic level, information about an internet enabled devices (such as a computer, mobile telephone or notepad) online activity – together with information about thousands of other browsing activities of other devices – is collected and segmented into general groups, such as cars, finance and travel. An interest profile (for example – “cars”) is inferred from data about the sites an Internet enabled device has visited and a file known as a cookie is placed on the device to identify it as being used by someone interested in the category “cars”. Advertisers and websites will tailor ads for groups of Internet enabled devices with the same interest and the cookie enables such relevant display advertising to be delivered to the device.

Find more information on how it all works here.

 What data are used?

Behavioural advertising can vary in terms of what information is used and how. Traditional advertising networks, for example, collect and use information when you visit one or a number of websites participating in that particular network. Typically, examples of data that are used to inform behavioural targeting categories include websites visited, hyperlinks clicked on, and search terms.

 What are the benefits?

You receive online display advertising that is relevant to you and your interests. For example, if you’re interested in gardening and visit gardening websites, you may – in the same or a later online session – receive advertising for special offers on lawnmowers.

More targeted advertising is beneficial as you’ll receive more relevant ads as well as access to free quality content, services and applications.

Online display advertising also funds much of the free material that is available on the web. More targeted advertising allows web publishers to continue to provide free content and make that advertising more relevant to their users. It also allows advertisers to reach an audience that is most likely to be interested in their products, generating revenue to help fund future innovations and services on the internet.

 Isn’t this a threat to my privacy?

All providers of this sort of service have to comply with applicable laws. In most cases, the information used for targeting ads is not personal, in that you – the user – cannot be identified. Where personal information (like registration data) is used, you should already have given your consent for its use when you first provided your information to that organisation. You can check how an organisation handles your personal information at any time by viewing its privacy policy. You always have a choice as to whether to benefit from more relevant advertising from Signatories to the Australian Best Practices Guideline or not. Signatories to the Australian Best Practices Guideline have agreed not to combine personal information with data collected for targeting purposes without express consent from users.

 What is ‘Personal Information and will it be used for online behavioural advertising?

Personal information is data that by itself, or in conjunction with other data held by a particular company, can be used to reasonably ascertain that the activities being conducted are being carried out by you. Obvious examples include your name, address or email address but can also include attitudes and preferences. Most providers do not use personal information for behavioural advertising. However, if a provider does use this information about you, then you will have access to that provider’s privacy policy on their website and your information must be handled in accordance with Australian privacy law. Signatories to the Australian Best Practice Guidelines have agreed not to combine personal information with data collected for targeting purposes without express consent from users.

 What can I do if I don’t want this type of advertising?

You can opt out here.

It is important to remember that this does not mean that you will no longer receive advertising when you are using the internet. It just means that the advertising you see displayed on websites will not be customised to you and your interests and may be less relevant to you.

For further information please visit our opt out help page.

 If I have a complaint about behavioural advertising, who do I contact?

If you have a complaint about the Australian Best Practices Guidelines or specifically about one of the businesses that has signed up to the Principles, go to our complaints section.

 Does online behavioural advertising mean I will see more advertising?

No. It simply means that the advertising you see on some websites will be more relevant to you and your interests.

 Will my online experience be disrupted by online behavioural advertising?

No. You will not see or experience any difference when online. Behavioural advertising simply aims to make display advertising more relevant to you.

 Will online behavioural advertising be directed at children?

The Australian Best Practice Guideline specifies that no company engaged in online behavioural advertising (that has agreed to abide by the Principles) shall create or sell a segment intended for the sole purpose of behaviourally targeting children they know to be under the age of 13 years.

 What is the Best Practice Guideline and how is it relevant to me?

The Australian Best Practice Guideline is a guideline for businesses collecting and using online information for behavioural advertising.

The Australian Best Practice Guideline is based on seven Principles developed to better foster transparency, knowledge, and choice for consumers and apply consumer-friendly standards to online behavioural advertising. The principles specify that organisations should provide notice of their online behavioural advertising practices to consumers and give consumers the ability to opt out of receiving online behaviourally targeted advertising, keep online behavioural advertising data safe, carefully and appropriately handle online behavioural advertising that relates to sensitive segmentation and establish an effective accountability and complaint handling mechanism.

The industry is committed to monitoring the operation and effectiveness of these Principles to ensure they keep up with changing technology and evolving commercial practices. If you have any feedback let us know by email.

 How do I know businesses that have signed up are complying with these Principles?

Companies that sign up and commit to the Principles have six months to comply. They will self-certify their compliance, which will also and be monitored independently based on complaints received. Here is a list of the businesses currently complying with the Australian Best Practice Guideline.

 What about potentially sensitive information?

Signatories to the Australian Best Practice Guideline recognise that some interest segments are sensitive in some contexts. Signatories have committed to exercising careful judgment when dealing with these interest segments according to the Australian Best Practice Guideline.

 Will any software be downloaded on my computer?

The Opt-out Tool reports information provided by advertisers about whether online behavioral advertising is occurring using “active” cookies present in your browser. The Opt-out Tool also allows you to replace an advertiser’s “active” behavioural advertising cookie(s) on your browser with a general opt-out cookie. It does not delete individual cookies nor does it necessarily replace other cookies delivered by advertisers, such as those that are used for ad reporting or mere ad serving purposes.

In line with data protection law, you need to give your explicit consent for anyone to use sensitive personal data about you.

 What is a ‘cookie’ and how is it used?

A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers downloaded on to your computer when you access certain websites. Cookies allow a website to recognise a user’s preferences as previously chosen by the user when they return to a site. A cookie itself does not contain or collect information. However, when it is read by a server in conjunction with a web browser it can help a website deliver a more user-friendly service – for example, remembering previous purchases or account details.

Cookies are filed in the memory of your browser and each one typically contains:

The name of the server the cookie was sent from

The lifetime of the cookie

A value – usually a randomly generated unique number

The website server which sends the cookie uses this number to recognise the browser that you are using when you return to a site or browse from page to page. Only the server that sent a cookie can read, and therefore use, that cookie. Cookies are central to the customisation of the internet and online behavioural advertising usually works using cookies.

 Can I disable a cookie?

Yes. Some browsers will let you block just third party cookies (this is a cookie placed on your browser by a third party – for example, an advertising network – other than that particular website owner) or will allow the use of settings to block only cookies that do not meet your privacy preferences.

You can choose to disable all cookies but this could significantly affect your web browsing experience if you use services that rely on cookies. Visit our top tips to find out more about managing your web browser privacy settings.

 Will I have to opt-out if I use a different PC at work?

Yes. If you choose to decline behavioural advertising from a specific company, it only applies to that particular company’s use of behavioural data on the internet web browser on the computer or device you are using. It will therefore affect other people who use that web browser as well. You will need to follow the same process on every computer and different web browser (eg Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari) that you use to fully decline behavioural advertising from that particular provider. For more information about opting out please visit our opt-out help page.

 Does disallowing behavioural targeting prevent me from receiving spam, pop-ups or junk mail?

No. Declining behavioural advertising only means that you will not receive more display advertising customised in this way. It does not affect or disallow any particular type of advertising e.g. email or pop-ups.