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

What is online behavioural advertising?

Online behavioural advertising is a way of using information about your web browsing activity to group you with other users into interest groups and serve you advertisements based upon these 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). Relevant ads can also be delivered based upon the website content you have just been viewing. This is known as ‘retargeting’.

How does it work?

There are different ways to provide behavioural advertising. At a basic level, information about your web browsing activity – together with information about thousands of other users’ browsing – 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 you have visited and a file known as a cookie is placed on your computer to identify you as someone interested in the category “cars”. Advertisers and websites will tailor adverts for groups of users with the same interest and the cookie enables relevant display advertising to be delivered to you.

What data is 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. This is information such as the website content that you visit, keyword searches that you make and ads that you may interact with. Websites usually provide you with more information about what they collect and how they use it normally under their Privacy Policy section or when you sign up.

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.

Targeted advertising is beneficial as you’ll receive more relevant adverts as well as access to quality content, services and applications at little or no cost. It is beneficial to advertisers as they are able to reach the audience that is most likely to be interested in this information, leaving out those who aren't. It is also beneficial for websites (web publishers) as advertising allows them to provide content at little or no cost. Online advertising revenue also helps fund future innovations and services on the internet.

Is this a threat to my privacy?

The information collected and used for customising adverts is not personal, in that you – the user – cannot be identified. The NZ Best Practice Guidelines were specifically designed to help safeguard your privacy. You always have a choice as to whether you wish to benefit from this type of advertising or not. More relevant advertising needs a little bit of information about your interests, otherwise it cannot work but we acknowledge that people may be uncomfortable with this. You can manage your privacy within the web browser that you are using. Visit our five top tips to see how to do this. Many web browsers also have a ‘private browsing’ mode as well.

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

You can manage your privacy within the web browser that you are using. Visit our five top tips to see how to do this. Many web browsers also have a ‘private browsing’ mode as well.

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.

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

The Interactive Advertising Bureau NZ (IABNZ), Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA), Communication Agencies Association NZ (CAANZ) and supporting trade bodies have created a Monitoring & Compliance Council (MCC) which includes taking complaints from the public, businesses and from government agencies concerning possible non-compliance with the Guidelines.

Please refer to our Make a Complaint service.

Does online behavioural advertising mean I will see more advertising?

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

What are the NZ Best Practice Guidelines and how are they relevant to me?

These are guidelines for businesses collecting and using online information for behavioural advertising and are based on seven Principles: (I) Education, (II) Transparency, (III) Consumer Control, (IV) Data Security, (V) Material Changes to OBA ads, (VI) Accountability and (VII) Monitoring & Enforcement.

The principles keep businesses on track and in return provide you with transparent information and control over this type of advertising.

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

The Monitoring & Compliance Council (MCC) will carry out regular reviews on all the Signatories. Principle VII in the Guidelines outlines steps we will take if a business does not comply. Note, companies that do not comply with the Guidelines and continue to offer Online Behavioural Advertising will be listed via

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

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, login information 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 you 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 works using cookies. Please note: cookies are used for other purposes as well, and not just advertising.

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 five top tips to find out more about managing your web browser privacy settings.

Who can I contact for further information?

Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions.