The nation's largest media and marketing
trade associations introduced a set of self-regulatory principles on Thursday to enhance privacy protection
for consumers surfing the Web.
Among other things, advertisers and Web sites will be required to clearly inform consumers about the data-collection practices they use. The new guidelines also will enable online users to exercise control over their personal information.
"This historic collaboration represents businesses and trade associations working together to advance the public interest," said Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg. "We are acting early and aggressively on their concerns, to reinforce their trust in this vital medium that contributes so significantly to the U.S. economy."
Changing the Status Quo
The new set of principles represents the behavioral advertising industry's direct response to mounting criticism from members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. Earlier this year, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz warned the industry that it needed to do a better job of delivering meaningful, rigorous self-regulation.
"Put simply, this could be the last clear chance to show that self-regulation can -- and will -- effectively protect consumers' privacy in a dynamic online marketplace," Leibowitz said.
Self-regulation, if it works, can be the fastest and best way to change the status quo, Leibowitz noted. "If there isn't an appropriately vigorous response, my sense is that Congress and the commission may move toward a more regulatory model," Leibowitz said.
The industry has incorporated many of the ideas that consumer advocacy watchdogs such as the Center for Democracy and Technology have suggested. On the upside, noted CDT Chief Computer Scientist Alissa Cooper, the guidelines include a robust framework for providing notice outside of privacy policies, and lay the groundwork for the use of a uniform link or icon that would appear on any Web site or advertisement where data is collected or used for behavioral advertising.
"The principles explicitly address business models that may rely on the collection of all or substantially all of a consumer's Web traffic for behavioral advertising -- including ISP-based models," Cooper said. "And the principles provide for strong enforcement through existing and to-be-created compliance programs."
However, Cooper said the nation's largest media and marketing trade associations haven't gone far enough toward protecting consumers.
"The notion of 'sensitive information' needed to cover a broad array of data types, including health information and location data," Cooper said. "The advertiser principles cover only a very limited subset of medical information and leave out location data altogether." (continued...)