The self-regulatory group Network Advertising Initiative has tapped Federal Trade Commission official Marc Groman to serve as executive director.
Groman replaces Charles Curran, who has held the position since April of 2009. Groman will start with the NAI in mid-December and will be based in Washington, D.C.
Since launching 10 years ago, the NAI has operated a site for consumers who want to opt out of behavioral targeting by NAI members.
But in the last year, the Digital Advertising Alliance -- a larger self-regulatory group that includes the major ad trade associations as well as the NAI -- started operating an opt-out page. The DAA has also drafted new self-regulatory principles and launched an enforcement program that has drawn praise from the FTC.
Rob Gratchner, chairman of the NAI's Board, says Groman will help the organization develop a strategy for moving forward. Among other potential changes, Gratchner says the NAI under Groman's leadership could extend itself to privacy advocates to a greater extent than in the past.
“We haven't reached out to parts of the community as much as we'd like to,” Gratchner says. He adds that the NAI could eventually phase out its own opt-out page. The NAI also produces annual compliance reports that detail whether its ad-network members are following the group's privacy rules, which require ad networks to notify consumers about behavioral targeting -- or serving ads to users based on their Web-surfing history -- and allow them to opt out.
Groman, a Harvard-educated lawyer and chief privacy officer at the FTC, is probably best known in the online-privacy world for helping to draft the Best Practices Act -- a bill unveiled in the House last year by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). That measure, which was reintroduced in Congress in February, would require online companies to obtain users' explicit permission before sharing their personal information with third parties, unless those companies participate in a universal opt-out program operated by industry groups and overseen by the FTC.
Groman worked on the proposed legislation between 2009 and 2010, when he was assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill drew support from a host of privacy advocacy groups, who said it compared favorably to other congressional proposals.
Justin Brookman, director of the consumer privacy project at the digital rights group Center for Democracy & Technology, praised Groman for his work on that legislation. “He's very smart and cares about privacy,” Brookman says. “He did a great job in getting that bill as close to right as possible.”