April 29, 2013 – Although the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has made great strides to protect consumers’ privacy online – which include its industry Self-regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising and its “Your Ad Choices” public education campaign – the Senate Commerce Committee appears to be underwhelmed by companies’ self-regulation efforts and the DAA’s promise to honor “Do Not Track” requests from consumers.
“Consumers are still waiting for these Do Not Track standards. Advertisers are continuing to ignore Do Not Track headers and consumers’ requests for privacy,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, at an April 24 hearing: “A Status Update on the Development of Voluntary Do-Not-Track Standards.”
“I have long expressed skepticism about the ability – or willingness – of companies to regulate themselves on behalf of consumers when it affects their bottom line,” Rockefeller said. “I disclose a generally troubling feeling I have about the nature of corporations around the chance to make money when people don’t know” what information is being collected about them, he continued.
DAA Self-regulatory Program Status
The DAA’s program is designed to provide choice to consumers regarding how they want their privacy protected. “The DAA’s efforts have helped to ensure that consumers will continue to have preferences regarding which ads they wish to see using a one-button mechanism,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “But clearly, there is still more work to be done and stakeholders have to find common ground to move forward successfully.”
In February 2012, the DAA announced that it would begin work to recognize browser-based choices with a set of tools by which consumers could express their preferences under the DAA principles. Since then, two browser companies, Microsoft and Mozilla, have announced plans to install Do Not Track features that would automatically default to full protection without consumers having to make a choice.
DAA Managing Director Lou Mastria testified before the Senate committee that these features undermine the industry agreement made in February 2012, because they remove consumer choice – a linchpin in the agreement – from the equation.
In March 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called on industry to step up self-regulatory practices or live with Congress stepping in. At the recent American Advertising Federation annual advertising day on Capitol Hill, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez stated that the advertising industry should work with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop a browser-based solution and praised Microsoft and Mozilla for their efforts, so it appears that support for voluntary programs may be wavering.
Although Harvey Anderson, Mozilla Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, told the committee that “industry has not moved forward quickly enough,” and that “the efficacy of the Ad Choice program remains questionable,” he did also state that “the work of the DAA should be acknowledged.”
Mastria told the committee that the DAA self-regulatory program protects consumers while also allowing them access to ad-supported content, adding that changes to the current paradigm would harm small publishers while also “chilling innovation.” He said that the DAA “is a solution provider” and the only entity that actually delivers choice for consumers.
“Today, the DAA calls on all stakeholders, including the FTC, W3C, Microsoft and Mozilla to honor the terms of the [February 2012] announcement and remove impediments that are preventing implementation of browser-driven choice for consumers,” Mastria said.
Is Legislation Needed?
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked whether Congress should move forward with legislation in this area, because “when voluntary agreements fail to provide compliance, that’s the classic instance where a law is needed.” Mastria replied that “legislative or technological fiats are not necessarily what the Internet needs. A nimble, self-regulatory approach [like DAA’s] is exactly the kind of thing that fosters consumer trust while protecting privacy.”
He later added that the DAA program delivers “the very mechanisms” that are in Do Not Track legislation (DNT2013) introduced Feb. 28 by Rockefeller and Blumenthal. This legislation would:
- Create a universal legal obligation for all online companies to honor consumer choice when consumers do not want anyone to collect information about their online activities;
- Allow the FTC to pursue enforcement action against any company that does not honor this request by consumers;
- Allow companies, upon consumer requests to not be tracked, to collect only the information that is necessary for the Web site or online service to function and be effective, but then place a legal obligation on the online company to destroy or make anonymous the information after it is no longer needed.
“Industry needs to strongly advocate for – and deliver on – its promise to implement the levels of online privacy protection that the public is seeking,” Kamp said. “For the DAA’s program to thrive, consensus on how the program will work for all stakeholders is key.”
Feb. 23, 2012 – At a White House meeting held today to unveil the blueprint for the Obama Administration’s “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) and its members were praised by White House, Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission officials for their efforts during the past three years to protect consumers’ privacy online. These efforts include the DAA’s Self-regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising and last month’s “Your Ad Choices” public education advertising campaign.
“While privacy remains one of the most challenging issues in the Internet age, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, through its work with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, is proud to be part of the solution announced by the White House today to enable consumers to better exercise their privacy and marketing preferences,” said Coalition Executive Director John Kamp. “Much still remains to be done, including urging all Web publishers, agencies and clients to take full advantage of the DAA’s self-regulatory program in order to create a more robust and trustworthy Internet marketplace,” he added.
The DAA also announced today that it will immediately begin work to recognize browser-based choices with a set of tools by which consumers can express their preferences under the DAA principles.
“The Administration, Congress, and the FTC have been pushing the business community for several years to make sure consumers are aware of the information practices occuring online and providing choices to consumers regarding the collection and use of information about them,” said DAA General Counsel Stu Ingis. “The DAA is an embodiment of leading companies responding to this call.”
For more information on this groundbreaking news, see the press release from the 4A’s, released at noon today: http://www.aaaa.org/news/press/Pages/022312_daa_whitehouse.aspx
Jan. 27, 2012 – The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) last week launched its “Your AdChoices” public education campaign to inform consumers about interest-based advertising and how to take greater control of their online privacy. This campaign follows several years of work by industry association leaders to develop and implement cross-industry best practices and effective solutions for the collection and use of advertising data.
The self-regulatory program and ad campaign respond to the increasing consumer angst about privacy and multiple proposals by Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce to limit online tracking and targeting by marketers.
“The Internet is THE marketing tool of our age, but if we don’t respect consumer privacy preferences, consumers and the government will shut us down,” said John Kamp, executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication.
“The self-regulatory program created by the DAA and this ad campaign put us on the right track. However, we must deliver on our promise both by helping consumers fully understand the advantages to them of digital tracking and by respecting their decisions to opt out when they wish,” Kamp commented.
The Coalition opposes mandatory “Do Not Track” provisions introduced in multiple pieces of legislation crafted by the Congress in 2011, but also strongly supports industry self-regulation that enables easy consumer opt-outs of unwanted tracking and marketing. [For more information about the DAA program, go to: http://www.aboutads.info/.]
Currently, more than 400 companies participate in the DAA’s Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising – including many top-20 global advertisers.
“Because medical data is particularly sensitive, medical marketers must be among the first to adopt the self-regulatory program and show our customers that we can be trusted to deliver useful information while respecting their privacy,” Kamp asserted.
“With widespread industry adoption of the [program] principles, the DAA remains committed to informing consumers about interest-based advertising, online data collection and use, and the simple way they can exercise control over their Web viewing data,” said Peter Kosmala, DAA managing director. “This highly creative public education campaign is an important step in that ongoing process.”
However, the threat of Congressional or federal agency regulation remains real. The advertising industry is expecting a final report on online privacy from the FTC and the White House is putting together its own report on digital privacy during 2012. The DAA’s consumer education campaign may be criticized in these reports for not sufficiently stressing the opt-out function.
Based on extensive consumer research, the campaign videos were created pro bono by MRM of Salt Lake City, part of McCann World Group. The first part of the campaign stresses how online advertising can result in advertising more targeted to individual consumer interests, leading some to object. A Jan. 19 article in The New York Times was critical of the videos because they “fail to mention … that users can opt out of being the target of personalized ads.” Writer Tanzina Vega states in the Times that “far from encouraging users to opt out, the ads emphasize how information that advertisers gather actually can improve the quality of the ads users see online.”
“The Times criticism is not completely fair,” according to Kamp, “but it is indicative of the skepticism out there. We must do this right and well, and the clock is ticking. What we don’t want is an EU-like privacy regulatory scheme which mandates informed consent for use of any cookies on a consumer brouser. That could kill much effective U.S. marketing.”
May 27, 2011 — As Congress considers six pieces of pending legislation introduced to protect consumers’ privacy online – all but one of which recommends mandatory “Do Not Track” provisions – the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation last week held a hearing to discuss whether Do Not Track also should be expanded to mobile device marketing.
“I think anyone who uses a mobile device has an expectation of privacy, and sadly that expectation is not always being met,” Committee Chairman Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.) said in a statement. “As smart phones become more powerful, more personal information is being concentrated in one place. These devices are not really phones—they are miniature computers.”
Testifying before the Committee, David C. Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that mobile device applications and ads that allow for the collection of consumer information “need to provide meaningful disclosure in a small screen environment” to prevent the invisible collection and sharing of consumer data with multiple partners.
Vladeck commended Rockefeller and fellow committee member Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for the two consumer privacy bills they have introduced. “Although the [FTC] has not taken a position on whether to recommend legislation in this area, the Commission strongly supports the goals of Sen. Rockefeller’s Do Not Track legislation and supports the approach laid out in that bill,” Vladeck said. Kerry’s bill does not call for a Do Not Track mechanism.
He added that the Commission “is committed to protecting consumers in the mobile sphere through law enforcement and by working with industry and consumer groups to develop workable solutions that protect consumers while allowing innovation.”
Acknowledging that industry is trying to self-regulate online behavioral advertising both online and in mobile device marketing, Vladeck indicated that the adoption of self-regulation has been rather slow. “Until advertisers agree to be bound by [self-regulation] – actually signing up and making this happen – I think the business community knows that at some point, sooner or later, there will be a Do Not Track requirement,” he told the Senate Committee.
“Whether we are conducting marketing activities online or through mobile device apps, industry must get its act together and begin self-regulation – quickly and in large numbers – if we are going to mandatory Do Not Track regulation,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “We can’t ‘wait and see’ any longer – the time to get on board is now.”
The Coalition opposes mandatory Do Not Track provisions and believes that consumer privacy and robust Internet commerce is better served by self-regulation (www.AboutAds.com) that enables easy consumer opt-outs of unwanted tracking and marketing.
May 13, 2011 – In the span of one week, two new bills calling for “Do Not Track” provisions were introduced in Congress, increasing the pressure on lawmakers to address the various versions of Do Not Track legislation that have been introduced during the past few months.
On May 9, Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the “Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011,” a bill that is designed to empower consumers to opt out of having their activities tracked online. This bill calls for a mandatory browser-based Do Not Track mechanism and would set time limits regarding how long a company could keep any data that is collected online.
“Recent reports of privacy invasions have made it imperative that we do more to put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to their personal information,” Rockefeller said in introducing the bill. “I believe consumers have a right to decide whether their information can be collected and used online. This bill offers a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their movements online.”
House Co-chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) also introduced a bill on May 6 that amends the Children’s Online Privacy Act of 1998 to “extend, enhance and update the provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information and establishes new protections for personal information of children and teens,” according to a press release.
The “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011” aims to protect children on the Internet, which is “their new 21st century playground,” Markey said. It calls for parental consent of the collection of children’s information and would establish a “digital marketing bill of right for teens.”
These two bills join four other privacy bills introduced previously by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)/Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.). Of these bills, the Kerry/McCain bill is the only privacy legislation that does not call for a Do Not Track mechanism.
The Coalition for Healthcare Communication opposes mandatory Do Not Track provisions and believes that consumer privacy and robust Internet commerce is better served by self-regulation that enables easy consumer opt-outs of unwanted tracking and marketing. As such, the Kerry/McCain bill is the most palatable to industry “because it recognizes the value of self-regulation,” said John Kamp, the Coalition’s executive director. “We want to be able to move forward to protect consumers in a more collaborative way,” he added.
May 5, 2011 — The regulatory challenges and marketing opportunities facing drug, device and biological companies using digital and social media to reach doctors, patients and caregivers will be discussed by experts with both marketing and regulatory backgrounds at the Drug Information Association’s 47th Annual Meeting, held June 19-23 in Chicago.
A June 22 panel session, “The Problems and Promise of Using Social Media to Improve Patient Care,” which is being chaired by Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp, will outline the regulatory environment in which companies are using social media to promote their products and will review concerns regarding the public relations and legal risks posed by the public, the plaintiff’s bar, and state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Forum panelists include special speaker Christopher M. Schroeder, CEO and board member, HealthCentral, as well as Mike Myers, president, Palio; Sharon Callahan, CEO, The Vue Group & LLNS; and Stuart Ingis, partner, Venable LLP. For more information on the conference, go to http://www.diahome.org.
April 14, 2011 – “The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011,” introduced Tuesday by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would establish a framework to protect consumer information online but stops short of calling for a “Do Not Track” provision that has been the hallmark of other recently proposed legislation.
“When the bill comes to the Senate floor, there will be amendments, and someone may offer an amendment on [Do Not Track],” Kerry said at an April 12 press conference to announce the bill. However, he indicated that such a provision was excluded because it affected industry support for the legislation and added that he believes “the robustness of the opt-out” set forth in the bill “will answer concerns about Do Not Track.”
The Coalition for Healthcare Communication opposes mandatory Do Not Track provisions. The Coalition believes that consumer privacy and robust Internet commerce is better served by self-regulation enabling easy consumer opt-outs of unwanted tracking and marketing. “The Coalition and the 4As have led the development and implementation of a voluntary program – www.AboutAds.info – which is building a system to help Web users understand when they are being tracked online and allows them to opt out as needed,” said John Kamp, Coalition executive director. “We’re delighted the draft bill recognizes this effort.”
In crafting the bill (see Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Text), which would put in place rules to regulate the collection, use and dissemination of consumer data and guide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in enforcing such protections, Kerry and McCain sought to strike a balance between consumer protections and the value of online advertising, Kerry said at the press conference.
“Many consumers enjoy the ability to receive targeted advertisements or visit Web sites that are free because they are completely ad-supported, but consumers must have control over how their data is used,” Kerry said. “We believe consumers and businesses will benefit from having a framework” for that communication and information exchange.
McCain noted in a statement that the bill “does not allow for the collection and sharing of private data by businesses that have no relationship to the consumer for purposes other than advertising and marketing. It is this practice that American consumers reject as an unreasonable invasion of privacy.”
Kerry also made clear that business interests were considered as well as consumer interests. “We produced this legislation with great sensitivity to the marketplace and to the economy,” he said. “Plenty of companies collect data and use it with high ethical standards and they use that data to innovate and tailor the services that they deliver to the clients they serve,” he added.
Specifically, the bill sets forth the following consumer privacy rights:
- The right to security and accountability: collectors of information must implement security measures to protect the information they collect and maintain;
- The right to notice, consent, access and correction of information; and
- The right to data minimization, constraints on distribution, and data integrity.
The Safe Harbor provision defined in the bill would allow the FTC to approve nongovernmental organizations to oversee voluntary safe harbor programs that would have to achieve protections at least as rigorous as those enumerated in the bill. Incentives for enrolling in a safe harbor program would include allowing safe harbor participants to design or customize procedures for compliance and to be exempt from some of the bill’s requirements.
“If we have to have legislation in this area,” Kamp said, “the Kerry/McCain bill’s safe harbor provision at least would allow our self-regulatory program to move forward.”
Recognizing that many companies are making significant investments in consumer privacy protections even in the absence of new laws, Kerry said that forging ahead in a collaborative manner shows that industry “knows that [consumer privacy protection] doesn’t just make business sense – it’s the right thing to do.”
Obama Administration Says Legislation Would Provide “Firm Legal Foundation”
March 17, 2011 — Current industry self-regulation on digital tracking and marketing practices may not be enough to stave off legislation establishing a mandatory Do Not Track program, according to testimony and remarks made at a Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hearing held March 16 to discuss the state of online consumer privacy.
Although Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) acknowledged in a statement that some members of industry have taken steps to address consumer privacy, he contended that voluntary programs are not yet sufficient to protect consumers.
“For too long, Congress has been asked to let self-regulation work. We’ve waited. And waited,” Rockefeller said. “And while we’ve waited, Americans have grown exposed. Self-regulation, by and large, has been a failed experiment.”
Significantly, Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, told the Commerce Committee that the Obama Administration supports legislation in this area. “I can report today that the [Obama] Administration now recommends that Congress enact legislation to provide a firm legal foundation” to support online consumer privacy protection, Strickling said.
Coalition, 4A’s Support Digital Advertising Alliance
Despite these calls for new laws, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication continues to strongly support industry self-regulation, as a way to both honor consumer preference as well as avoid broad legislation. “Yesterday’s Senate hearings highlight every citizen’s interest in privacy, especially the need for digital health marketers to respect the choice of their customers,” said Coalition Executive Director John Kamp.
“That’s why the Coalition and the 4A’s have forged ahead with major industry partners to build a system where Web users know when they are being tracked and are allowed to opt out. Indeed, industry self-regulation is well ahead of the FTC and other government regulation efforts,” Kamp noted. “We must be wary of the FTC’s favorite Do Not Track program. While it’s popular in the telemarketing context, digital is different and the current proposal looks more like a sledge hammer than measured regulation.”
The 4A’s and the Digital Advertising Alliance issued the following statement in response to the Senate hearing:
“We strongly believe in protecting consumer privacy. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is good for business. Consumers should absolutely have a choice about whether they want to be tracked online. Efforts of the government are to be applauded, without a doubt, but online privacy and a robust, relevant online experience need not be mutually exclusive.
The interactive industry strongly supports consumer privacy and meaningful choice and is building the strongest self-regulatory program possible (http://www.aboutads.info) – one that empowers consumers to exercise control over their information online. This effort has been spearheaded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Direct Marketing Association, and also includes the American Advertising Federation, the Network Advertising Initiative, and other leading industry associations that collectively represent all of the key elements of the Internet ecosystem.
We believe that this approach is meeting consumers’ privacy expectations today and will be equipped to evolve to continue to do so in the future. We will continue to work with all policymakers on these important issues.”
Industry Wants More Time, Not Legislation
Speaking on behalf of industry at the Senate hearing, John Montgomery, COO, North America, for GroupM Interaction, said that the Digital Advertising Alliance has indeed made progress, citing among other milestones a consumer education “Privacy Matters” campaign, the development of an Advertising Option Icon, the launch of the AboutAds.info Web site and consumer-facing opt-out page, and enforcement programs under the Direct Marketing Association and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Montgomery also stated that a self-regulation program will help consumer privacy protections evolve, because it can adjust to market circumstances in a flexible, efficient manner outside of the legislative process. “One of the benefits of industry self-regulation is its ability to respond quickly to changes to technology and business practices,” he said.
For example, one of the hypothetical concerns being raised regarding information collected via behavioral advertising is that the data could be used at some point for employment, credit or healthcare eligibility. Although this is not current business practice, the self-regulatory program already is addressing those concerns “to clarify that this practice will never occur,” he added.
Further, Montgomery advised the Senate panel that it is important to avoid sending consumers a “mixed message” that could inhibit them from acting because it adds confusion to an already complex arena. “We have to ensure that there is a single standard,” he concluded. “Self-regulation creates the right framework for innovation and privacy.”
Commerce, FTC Weigh In
However, government speakers and several Senators pushed hard for both legislation and regulation. Strickling told the Senate panel that the Commerce Department has concluded, following consideration of comments received on its green paper, entitled Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework, that legislation – establishing a “consumer bill of rights” – should be enacted to support consumer privacy. Strickling said the Commerce Department is hoping to issue its final report on online consumer privacy this spring.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz stated that he is “agnostic” about whether industry adopts a robust, enforceable self-regulation mechanism or whether Congress acts to protect consumers through legislation, but he also stated that Do Not Track should not just be an “empty slogan.”
“I hope American businesses will step up their efforts,” Leibowitz told the Committee. He cited the work done to date by the Digital Advertising Alliance to develop “Self-regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising” as “promising,” but also added in his written testimony that these efforts “are still in the embryonic stage, and their effectiveness remains to be seen.”
Representing the American Civil Liberties Union, Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese told the Committee that the ACLU rejects any approach that relies solely on self-regulation and fully supports legislation. “Companies’ promises are important, but not enough,” he said.
At the conclusion of hearing, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) stated that the Committee “would continue a thoughtful process” on the matter. Kerry indicated that he is currently working on a bill to establish a “commercial privacy bill of rights.”
March 11, 2011 — As the public debate over digital privacy continues, federal regulators on and off Capitol Hill are telling online marketers that now is the time to widely adopt strict self regulatory programs that enable Web users to opt-out of unwanted tracking and marketing. If not, marketers can expect legislation and/or regulation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) creating a federal mandate and a possible Do Not Track system like the FTC’s popular Do Not Call program.
New threats and regulatory proposals seem to be popping up everywhere, from proposals by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Commerce, to hearings and proposed legislation in the Senate and the House. Meanwhile, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, the 4A’s and other leading marketing companies are reminding policy makers of the industry’s opt-out program while urging more advertisers and agencies to participate.
“We believe that the industry has taken a strong leadership role in educating and protecting consumers in the online advertising arena,” said Dick O’Brien, head of the 4A’s Washington office. “The industry’s new self-regulatory program is up and running and providing consumers with effective and workable options to help them manage online advertisements.”
The members of the Digital Advertising Alliance include the 4A’s, the Association of National Advertisers, the American Advertising Federation, the Direct Marketing Association, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The Alliance program, developed in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau, has been operating since late 2010.
But the warnings keep on coming. For example, on March 8, at the 4A’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas, David C. Vladeck, director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, told attendees that although the FTC “recognizes that behavioral advertising benefits consumers,” it also “raises serious privacy concerns.” Vladeck explained that the preliminary report issued by the Commission in December 2010, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in and Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers,” was intended to “spur industry to develop more robust and effective best practices and self-regulatory guidelines.”
FTC Calls for More Progress with Self-regulation
Vladeck said the FTC supports the industry guidelines and an opt-out mechanism. But while he finds them “encouraging,” he’s concerned that they are not yet widely adopted and apparent to users on the Internet.
“We’re concerned about [other] practices that subvert or undermine consumer choice, and our enforcement agenda reflects that concern,” Vladeck said. In his view, a successful Do Not Track mechanism should include five basic components, as follows:
- Be easy for consumers to use and understand;
- Be effective and enforceable;
- Be universal – consumers should be able to go to one place to exercise their preferences across the board;
- Allow consumers to opt out not only from the use of tracked data, but also from its collection; and
- Ensure that consumers’ choices will be persistent – they should not have to reset their preferences every time they clear their cookies or close their browser.
“We think the industry is up to the task of ensuring that both the design and implementation of the mechanisms it is developing will have those components and operate effectively,” Vladeck said, adding that any Do Not Track mechanism “should build upon existing industry innovations.”
Speaking on a 4A’s meeting panel to discuss the new program, Carla Michelotti, executive vice president and chief legal, government and corporate affairs officer for Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, indicated that current self-regulation programs are not yet fully supported by many advertising agencies. “The self-regulation program is a very good program, but you need to read, understand and know where an agency fits in,” she said. Accordingly, the 4As and the Coalition will soon announce training programs for agency executives to increase awareness and participation.
Panelist Eric Mower, CEO of Eric Mower & Associates, emphasized the connection between privacy and stewardship, especially for agencies. “Any organization dealing with consumer data has a responsibility,” he said. “Voluntary self-regulation is just that – you do it because you feel responsible.”
Lack of Progress May Open Door to Legislation
Although successful self-regulation programs may need some tweaking, Vladeck does not believe that legislation is necessary to accomplish the FTC’s goals of protecting online consumers. However, his statement that the Commission has been “disappointed in the progress of self-regulation,” leaves the door open for legislative proposals. Two pieces of Do Not Track legislation already have been introduced in the House of Representatives; two more may be forthcoming.
The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011 (H.R. 654), was introduced Feb. 11 by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and would direct the FTC to develop standards for a Do Not Track mechanism that also would allow individuals to opt out of the collection, use or sale of their online activities. On Feb. 10, U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) introduced H.R. 611, the Best Practices Act, which would establish ground rules and privacy minimums for consumers, including “opt-in” consent to disclose information to a third party. Under Rush’s bill, companies that collect personal information would be required to disclose their practices and provide concise, meaningful and easy-to-understand notices of these practices.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also plans to introduce legislation that he indicates will include a Do Not Track provision so that children do not have either their online behavior tracked or their personal information collected or profiled. Additionally, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) is expected to introduce a privacy bill that will include a provision for an FTC-approved five-year self-regulatory program and would prescribe requirements for a self-regulatory consumer dispute resolution process.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing March 16 to examine online consumer privacy – specifically commercial practices that involve “collecting, maintaining, using, and disseminating large amounts of consumer information, some of it potentially very sensitive and private in nature.” This hearing is the second in a series of hearings examining how users’ information is stored, collected and used. [Editor’s note: Senate hearings normally are streamed live on the Committee Web site. To access, go to: http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings]
“Modern technology has connected people with the world and led to new innovations, new products and new experiences,” Commerce Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said. “But with these new opportunities come new risks. I want to know if the privacy protections we have in place are enough, or whether Congress needs to step in and do more.”
For further information, contact John Kamp at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add your comments on this important issue below.