Ad Groups Granted Extension To Comment On Do-Not-Track

Capitol-Hill

At the request of a coalition of industry groups, the Federal Trade Commission has extended the deadline for comments to its privacy report until Feb. 18. The original deadline was Jan. 31.

Stuart Ingis, counsel to the umbrella organization Digital Advertising Alliance, asked for an extension in a letter to the FTC sent late last year. He said that business associations needed more time to evaluate the FTC's report -- which called on Web companies to create a universal mechanism for consumers to opt out of online tracking -- as well as a separate report about privacy issued by the Department of Commerce.

"Additional time will allow business to evaluate the potential impact on the proposals to important business operations and critical services to consumers," he wrote. "By allowing members to fully digest the two proposals and provide thoughtful input in the form of additional comments, we believe we can provide the Commission with more meaningful input from a broad spectrum of affected industries."

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, Newspaper Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce were among the groups that requested extra time. They had asked for an extension until March 15.

In a separate letter, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets also asked for a 30-day extension. That organization said the FTC's report "may impact the financial services industry to a significant extent."

In its privacy report, the FTC sought comment on a host of issues, including whether it should recommend legislation requiring do-not-track if the industry doesn't voluntarily implement "an effective uniform choice mechanism."

The separate Commerce Department report called for business groups and consumer advocates to work together to develop self-regulatory privacy policies based on Fair Information Practices principles. That report also called for comments about whether new laws are needed. The deadline for those responses is Jan. 28.

The Senate is expected to conduct a hearing next month about online privacy.

To date, the FTC has received more than 200 comments on its report, primarily from individuals, but also from at least one business organization -- the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors, made up of private firms engaged in remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems.

That group takes issue with a section of the report calling for companies to seek consumers' affirmative consent before collecting "precise geolocation data" -- included in the FTC's proposed definition of sensitive information. MAPPS says this restriction could "hamper the ability of firms, agencies and organizations to collect, use, share, or apply geospatial data."

The organization is asking the FTC to either exempt geolocation data from the prior-consent requirement or define the term more precisely. "It would be impractical, if not impossible, for our member firms to obtain prior approval or consent from individual citizens prior to acquiring or applying data such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, or parcel, address, or transportation data," the group writes.

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