When Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler refined his privacy proposal last week, the Association of National Advertisers expressed some concerns, but didn't flatly condemn the plan.
But now that several days have passed, the ANA is taking a more critical stance. The organization said this afternoon that it is "increasingly concerned" that Wheeler's proposal "would require a vast amount of opt-in consents by consumers."
Wheeler's new proposal requires broadband providers to obtain users' opt-in consent before using their "sensitive" information for ad targeting. But he is defining "sensitive" as including users' Web browsing history and app usage.
The ad industry also says that companies should obtain users' opt-in consent before drawing on sensitive data for ad targeting. But the industry -- including online publishers, ad networks and the various self-regulatory groups -- doesn't consider all browsing history or app usage to be "sensitive." Instead, the industry says sensitive data includes a limited set of material, including certain types of healthcare information, financial account numbers, and precise location information. (The ad industry's self-regulatory groups say companies should allow consumers to opt out of receiving ads targeted based on supposedly non-sensitive data.)
The ANA today expressed concern about the FCC's relatively expansive concept of sensitive information. "This definitional overreach will result in consumers having to opt out repeatedly throughout the day as they browse the web or be overloaded with a constant drumbeat of opt-in choices," the ANA stated. "In either case, this will have severe negative impacts for the on-line and mobile experience, resulting in harm to consumers and threatening the financial underpinnings of the Internet ecosystem."
Wheeler's proposal drew a more favorable response from the Federal Trade Commission, which has long policed privacy practices by Google, Twitter and other online companies.
“We know that consumers care deeply about their privacy, and I am pleased to see the FCC moving forward to protect the privacy of millions of broadband users across the country," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez stated last week, shortly after Wheeler unveiled his new proposal.