RealTime IT News

Interadnet Touting Cookie-less Ad Server

Consumers aren't the only ones that are looking for online privacy controls.

At least, that's the thinking of Web ad server Interadnet. Instead, to address what it says are the unmet privacy needs of advertisers, the Raleigh, N.C.-based company recently began offering an ad server that doesn't use cookies.

Interadnet's new server is targeted at advertisers with special privacy concerns. These include clients in highly regulated industries -- like pharmaceuticals or financial services, where the amount of information advertisers can collect must be disclosed and, often, approved by the consumer.

This also could apply to businesses that target minors. For instance, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act specifies that companies that target their wares to children can't gather personal information -- and not collecting cookie information could be one way to avoid a possible conflict with the law.

While the company's new server cannot target ads based on recipient's Web surfing habits -- unlike its earlier products, and those of competitors like DoubleClick -- the cookie-less ad server will provide many of the same functions as a server that uses cookies, such as impression and click-through reporting.

Stephanie Herald, Interadnet's vice president of client services, said the company began exploring a cookie-free option last year. And with privacy issues at the forefront of many national legislators' agendas during the current Congressional session, Interadnet's offering could come in advance of tougher laws governing Internet information collection.

"You have a number of bills being reviewed that specifically focus on Internet privacy," Herald said. "We've been looking at industries for well over a year, and we developed the cookie-less ad server in part to pre-empt pending legislation."

Several bills under review in the House and Senate could limit online ad companies' abilities to profile consumers' information without explicit consent. Additionally, specific acts are under consideration that would further restrict government agencies', and healthcare and pharmaceutical companies' online information collection practices.

"Some of the reasons we developed this was in direct response to those industries, and growing demand for higher levels of privacy that go beyond current measures," Herald said. "We want to give the advertiser a choice based on what types of information they want to gather, and what level of privacy they want to provide to their customers."

Herald said the company is already seeing interest in the offering from clients, saying that it's already signed deals with some "healthcare and government entities," though she declined to elaborate.

In fact, Interadnet said it sees these sorts of companies representing a large, untapped market for online advertising providers.

"No one has stepped up to the plate in terms of providing this technology, which is surprising considering that there's been a growing number of organizations that aren't advertising online because they have special privacy needs," said Interadnet chief executive Bill Freeman.

Several companies already offer ad serving and tracking without using cookies. ISP-level ad server AdWise, for instance, doesn't cookie consumers but does track and target ads using anonymous clickstream data -- data that it says it discards after a campaign.

Additionally, the major ad networks can "turn off" information-collecting in campaigns. But since most advertisers are interested in tracking post-impression activity, the vast majority of ad networks and servers don't market a specific cookie-free offering.

For its part, Interadnet says that by promoting a standalone, cookie-free offering, it's contributing to overall privacy and addressing a real client need.

"We're filling a leadership position in the online market," Herald said. "We've been aware of these concerns for a while, and developed a solution for advertisers who are not comfortable with intrusion of cookies. It's going to bring some significant results for advertisers that they weren't able to achieve before."