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Online ads to come with standard icon to inform consumers on privacy -

The advertising industry has agreed on a standard icon - a little ‘i’ - that will be used in online ads that target users based on demographics. The icon, called Power I, will be added to most online ads that use demographics and behavioral data to inform customers why specific ads are being targeted at them. The symbol has been introduced by Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group that helped create the symbol, and a coalition of trade groups that have been vocal about fending off government regulation.

Major companies running online ads are expected to begin adding the little blue symbol to their ads by midsummer. The icon will be included along with phrases like ‘Why did I get this ad?’ On clicking the icon, customers will be led to a page explaining how the advertiser uses their web surfing history and demographic profile to send them certain ads.

The initiative comes in the midst of a fierce debate on privacy, with the US Congress showing interest in the subject. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials have expressed concern that the privacy policies of companies are not clear or accessible enough to protect visitors. FTC representatives have stated that it is too early to tell whether the new icon and phrases would work with consumers.

The FTC supports industry efforts to develop a consistent symbol and message that would help educate consumers about online advertising. It hopes that the industry will share data, such as click-through and opt-out rates, that will inform the debate.

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