As privacy debates rage in Congress, online advertisers are taking increasing steps to ensure that their business methods are as transparent (and blameless) as possible. One such move came today, with the announcement of new standard terms and conditions for the interactive industry from the Internet Advertising Bureau and 4A’s.

The last update to the T&C’s was made in 2002, and the online advertising business has changed a lot since then. The most important change today has to do with the ownership of user data online. For the last eight years, it has been unclear who is responsible for maintaining marketing data online, a vaguery that has caused much grief in the industry.

In 2002, data issues were not as problematic as today, but they were still an issue, to the point where those 2.0 guidelines didn’t make a decision as to whether the publisher, advertiser or media buyer was responsible for managing user data. As a result, online data ownership has been jostled between all three for the last eight years.

The new rules call for publishers, marketers and agencies to post privacy policies on their individual sites. The 3.0 guidelines also now account for tools used in interactive advertising campaigns, including performance-based advertising and user-generated content platforms.

Over 100 finance, legal, sales and buying leaders from different media companies and agencies volunteered to help with the updates. According to Randall Rothenberg, President of the IAB:

“Streamlining business processes in interactive has been one of our main objectives as an organization and with the contributions from both advertising agencies and media companies we believe that we have accomplished this goal.”

Most especially, not having clear cut guidelines means that companies often found themselves in limbo when it came to negotiating terms of their campaign agreements.

As PaidContent points out:

“Earlier this year, WPP Group grew impatient with the slow process of
updating the contract language. So it stepped into the breach and amended
the boilerplate to claim ownership for itself of all data related to
its online ads. At the time, the media buyer felt that it needed to
take matter into its own hands to block rival ad companies from
extracting the data and using it for their own campaigns.”

In addition, as David
Cohen, US director of digital communications
for UM, and chairperson of the 4A’s Digital Marketing Committee, points out:

“Instead of
spending time negotiating the same things over and over again for each
campaign, an industry-accepted Ts&Cs document will allow us to use
our resources where they are needed most—ensuring campaigns maximize
advertisers’ results.”

Establishing standards online is a big component toward encouraging trust in the way data is used online. It’s not clear that such steps will fend off regulation from Congress, but helping to make it easier to do business online can never hurt.