Commentary

FTC To Ad Tech Industry: More Transparency, User Control Over Data Necessary

The Federal Trade Commission made its position clear on consumer privacy during AdExchanger's Industry Preview. The verdict: Ad tech is growing fast, but it shouldn't be a data free-for-all.

At a bare minimum, said FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, it's critical that consumers be given info about retail mobile tracking as it's happening so they can exercise some control over its use. 

Brill's speech at the conference touched on a few key points, including: Consumers need the option to opt out of data collection, and they must have choice over how their data is collected and used.

She added that it's "somewhat surprising" to her that the ad-tech industry hasn’t been more motivated to offer consumers more tools to protect their privacy. 

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"The ad-tech industry -- you -- should be mindful that the FTC has pushed for more consumer control of data in the past 15 years," Brill said to the audience. She mentioned a quote from Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next. In an op-ed for Re/code, Kint wrote, "No business has ever succeeded long term without meeting consumer demands. So, instead of fighting consumers, let’s give them what they want: more transparency and better controls."

And on the topic of native advertising (for which the FTC released guidelines in December) Brill said, "We care because if consumers are unable to recognize ads, they are going to give greater weight to it and interact with it in ways they wouldn’t otherwise act with it."

She finished by saying she knew she was preaching to the choir (mentioning that many in the audience had concerns about maintaining customer loyalty), but that it’s in everybody’s interest to make sure consumers understand what's at stake.

5 comments about "FTC To Ad Tech Industry: More Transparency, User Control Over Data Necessary".
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  1. Craig Spiezle from AgeLight LLC, January 22, 2016 at 1:57 p.m.


    We are at an inflection point.  Consumers are taking control through ad blocking and other measures.  With the introduction of the new browser Brave, we should expect to see more users taking control of their browser experience.  Our challenge is the need to recognize the need to change and embrace privacy controls.   It would be great to see some innovation to embrace the consumer experience, while promoting the vitality of online advertising.  The current path does not look promising.  The solution is simple, 1) embrace Do Not Track, 2) embrace recommendations from industry to stop malvertising and 3) stop blurring the line between editorial and native advertising. 

  2. Kim Garretson from RealizingInnovation, January 22, 2016 at 8:06 p.m.

    I'd like to add a #4 to Craig Spiezle's list:

    4. Just ask for permission to market to individual consumers 1:1 on criteria they set. Many of the top retailer are beginning to add this option to their product pages. Realizing they have at best 4% conversion on most pages, they are adding a new button next to Add to Cart that says something like Get Alerts. This captures the consumer's interest in changes such as price drops and new reviews, and usually suspends the retargeting campaigns on the items viewed. Some media companies are looking at deploying this option with their content as well.

  3. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, January 22, 2016 at 8:44 p.m.

    Question.  So what were smart TV makers, software firms, and other players thinking when they failed to fully disclose just "what" data was being gathered from users?  If we told them in short, plain English, they might immediately opt-out and we wouldn't have a viable data business?  Perhaps many consumers are unwilling to read the excessively long and cryptically worded "terms of service" but it does come down, at least long range, to a matter of trust.

  4. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, January 22, 2016 at 8:57 p.m.

    Agree with Kim.  Give consumers a bit of control and it moves the viewer from victim to willing conversant.

    On the video side we've had very promising test results with http://pause2pick.com/prototype.  Testers are happy to indicate preferences (a la Pandora) but want assurances that there privacy is assured and that they can clear preferences if desired.

    To reprise Jason Kint, "instead of fighting consumers, let's give them what they want."  Control is what they want.  The accumulation of data without permission is considered a violation by nearly all.  


  5. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, January 25, 2016 at 10:10 a.m.

    James, Internet users little know the depth of the data being collected.  Still, they feel like their preferences are being stolen.  Data greed may be good in the short term but is bound to bite publishers and advertisers in the long term.

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