Privacy Bill Draft Would End Ad-Supported Internet Model: ITI

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(Image credit: Andrew Brookes via Getty Images)

Witness John Miller, senior VP of policy and general counsel for the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), told Congress Tuesday (June 14) that it was on the right track, sort of, with the bipartisan federal privacy bill's definition of "targeted advertising" but it would "prevent the ad-supported internet business model from continuing."

ITI members include Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Twitter, to name only a few.

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act would allow users to opt out of that "targeted advertising" when surfing the web, whose free content has been supported by such ads.

Miller said everyone agrees privacy legislation is needed -- one reason is so that states do not come up with their own patchwork of privacy laws, a model Miller called "unsustainable."

Also: IAB Tech Lab Launches GPP Global Ad Privacy Permissions Standard

But Miller did point to state laws in Virginia, Colorado and Utah for their definitions of targeted advertising, saying the draft would be better if it more closely followed those states, which he said "struck the right balance to enable internet companies to reasonably advertise to their users on their sites while protecting their privacy interests.”

While Miller said the draft bill deserves thoughtful consideration and is "the most credible bipartisan and bicameral effort yet to advance comprehensive federal privacy legislation in the United States," ITI has a lot of issues with it.

In addition to the definition of targeted advertising, ITI said the definition of "sensitive covered data" is overly broad. The definition of what qualifies as sensitive info deserving of special protection has been one of the major sticking points of past attempts to achieve bipartisan consensus on a way forward.

ITI also said the bill does not distinguish sufficiently between the different entities that use data or their obligations regarding its privacy.

Edge providers also have an issue with the bill's private right of action, which allows users to sue for violations of data privacy. ITI said that given the "already strong" enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department provisions in the draft, "it is reasonable to ask whether including a Private Right of Action is necessary to ensure robust enforcement."

While the private right of action has been narrowed, ITI said it is still too broad and will likely lead to a "wave of litigation."

Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) suggested in his opening statement that Big Tech was essentially the problem that needed fixing.

"Comprehensive, national privacy legislation is necessary to limit the excesses of Big Tech and ensure Americans can safely navigate the digital world," Pallone said. "There is simply no real “choice” when consumers must trade their personal data to use essential services. People cannot navigate the modern world without their smartphone or email address. And with the minimal protections that apply today, most Americans have little reason to think their data won’t be used in unanticipated ways."

Since 2019, ITI has been arguing it is part of the solution, offering up what it says is a legislative roadmap for a federal privacy law. ■

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.