CDD: Industry Self-Regulation Has Failed For Online Privacy

Industry self-regulation has failed and existing regulations are out-of-date and in need of revamping.

That was the message of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and U.S. PIRG in a filing at the FCC Wednesday in its online consumer privacy proceeding and in advance of a Dec. 7 workshop on the issue.

"Given the new leadership at the FTC, there is no longer any reason for the commission to fail to analyze the information available, and to develop reasonable principles to protect consumers online," the groups argue.

They have been pushing the commission for several years to drill deeper into the issue on online privacy and behavioral advertising, ad tracking and social media marketing, particularly its impacts on children and wider implications related to media consolidation.

CDD has also called for a legislative ban on collecting from or targeting information to anyone under 18, a do-not-track list similar to the do-not-call list for telemarketers, and prohibiting the tracking or use of "sensitive" data on health, finances, ethnicity, sexual orientation, personal relationships or political activity to target marketing pitches."

"As the history of self-regulation of the media in the U.S. makes clear," they say, "we need strong baseline laws and regulations to ensure serious industry compliance. That’s why this new proceeding must lead to FTC action that will ensure that consumer privacy online is finally safeguarded."

The groups also want more and better consumer awareness and education efforts.

CDD's Jeff Chester has said he believes that privacy can be protected without closing down the Internet or prohibiting online marketers from making a living, both arguments made by the industry against new regs or laws. "You can have a robust e-commerce system that funds diverse online publishing but also has effective consumer protection and privacy rules," he has told B&C.

Online marketers did come up with a set of revised, self-regulatory guidelines, but the groups say they are inadequate.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.