FTC To Tackle Cross-Device Targeting

The Federal Trade Commission will hold a workshop examining privacy issues raised by tracking consumers across devices for ad purposes, the agency said on Tuesday.

“With the advent of new tracking methods, though, it’s important to ensure that consumers’ privacy remains protected as businesses seek to target them across multiple devices,” FTC consumer protection head Jessica Rich said in a statement.

The agency noted that ad companies are turning to tracking technologies other than cookies, which only track people's activity on one particular device. Cross-device tracking techniques, by contrast, aim to glean information about people's Web activity across not only desktops or laptops, but also smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.



“A cookie may not provide a complete picture of a consumer who uses different web browsers at home, at work and on their mobile device,” the FTC said.

Given the limitations of cookies, ad companies are exploring other strategies aimed at linking users' behavior across devices. But companies are often deploying these techniques “without the consumers’ awareness or control,” according to the FTC.

The FTC is seeking public comment on a host of questions, including how ad companies are approaching cross-device tracking, whether the techniques pose any privacy risks, how companies can give consumers more control over cross-device tracking techniques, and whether the current industry self-regulatory programs apply to different cross-device tracking techniques.

The workshop will take place on Nov. 16, and the FTC is accepting comments through Oct. 16.

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