New Bill ‘Attacks’ Big Tech Over Targeted Advertising

targeted advertising
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House and Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that could take a bite out of Big Tech’s online advertising marketplace by banning co-called surveillance advertising.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, made it clear that the bill was clearly aimed at hitting Big Tech in the wallet.

“The first place to start in holding companies accountable is to attack the business model so many of the big tech companies depend on,” Wyden said of the bill. “If you take away the incentive to hoover up users’ personal data, you make it much harder to target them both with objectionable content and take a sledgehammer to the incentive to design platforms in a way that can be harmful — especially for kids and teens. That’s exactly what this legislation does.”

The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act prohibits the use of personal data to target advertising or from targeting ads based on race, gender, religion or other "protected class" categories.

The bill only allows targeted advertising based on a consumer’s location, but does allow contextual advertising, which are ads based on the content the user is engaging with.

A key to any such prohibition is the definition of “personal information.” The bill’s definition includes “a unique identifier that may be used to identify an individual or a connected device; or other personal information that can be used to identify an individual or a connected device.”

Violations of the ban would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission under its “false and deceptive acts” authority.

In addition to Wyden, the bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). “I'm proud to partner with Representative Schakowsky and Senators Wyden and Booker on legislation to ban this toxic business model that causes irreparable harm to consumers, businesses, and our democracy,” Eshoo said.

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.