Consumer Groups Launching Online Privacy Push

Look for almost a dozen consumer groups and privacy advocates to launch a full-court press on targeted behavioral advertising and online privacy on Capitol Hill next week.

According to a source, those groups on Sept. 1 will release a background paper, letters to House members and other documents to make their case for stronger government oversight of online marketing targeted to kids.

"A growing number of child advocacy and health groups have called on the FTC and Congress to prohibit the behavioral targeting of both children and teens, next week, many leading consumer and privacy groups will send a letter to congressional leaders calling for similar safeguards," confirms Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Chester saidd that 10 groups will be involved in the push, and that they will be "pressing Congress to write legislation that truly protects consumer privacy, but enables online marketing to flourish in a more responsible fashion."

The effort comes as Congress prepares to return from its summer break. House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has made an online privacy bill a legislative priority in this session of Congress.

Major advertisers and agencies last month released new self-regulatory guidelines that would give Web surfers more control of how their information is used and how they are being marketed to. They also mirror self-regulatory guidelines proposed by the Federal Trade Commission in February.

But just how much control the self-regs would give surfers, and whether they are a sufficient governor on the marketing engine without government intervention or at least oversight, remain key issues with consumer advocates.

Chester argues that self-regulation hasn't worked thus far, and would need legislation to back it up. Boucher has said he could encorporate self-regs into his bill.

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.