Skip to main content

Brill: FTC Will Monitor Behavioral Ad Self-Regs

Democratic Federal Trade Commission member Julie Brill gave ad
trade associations a shout out for a recent behavioral advertising
self-regulatory initiative, but said in general she has been underwhelmed by
self-regulation in that area and that the FTC will be checking
to see if the latest effort measures up.

That came in a speech this week in New York.

Two weeks ago, ad industry associations and the
Better Business Bureau announced a set of self-regulatory principles
for online behavioral advertising

Those include affirmative efforts to educate consumers
about behavioral marketing, creating clearer and more accessible
disclosures, allowing for more consumer control of data collection, parental
consent for behavioral advertising targeting kids under 13, consumer consent for
"material changes" and use and programs to monitor

Advertisers are looking to head off calls for
opt-in regimes, bans on targeted marketing to kids under 13, and
perhaps older, and more.

In her speech, Commissioner Brill said the FTC would vet the
program to see how easy it was for consumers to use, calling that a
critical factor and saying if consumers don't understand the controls provided,
or can't use them easily, "the program simply won't be
effective." She said the commission will also be checking to see how "robust"
enforcement is, and how widespread the participation is in the voluntary

The FTC is about to release a report on a proposed
re-think of how it protects consumer privacy in the digital

Behind the report were its conclusions after a yearlong
review that: collection of consumer information on and
offline is "far more extensive" than some consumers are aware of,
that consumers don't have the ability or understanding to make
informed decisions about data collection and use; that privacy is still
important in a world linked by "ubiquitous" social networking; that
there are benefits to consumer data collection because
it allows for more personalized advertising and because it helps pay the
freight for the free content consumers have come to expect

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has on more than one
occasion pointed to the upside of behavioral advertising for just
those reasons.

Brill also said the distinction between personally
identifiable information--which gets heightened protection--and
non-identifiable information is blurring.

She said the report would likely talk about
"privacy by design," or building privacy and security into the front
end of the process; transparency about commercial data practices; consumer
choice, and perhaps some kind of "do not track" mechanism.
Brill said she would personally favor.

The report, she said, would be a framework for
self-regulation and industry best practices and to provide information
to policymakers.

 The FTC has limited rulemaking authority, but
there is privacy legislation in Congress that could still be modified
to reflect suggestions from the FTC.