It's "highly likely" that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will grant the ad industry's request to revisit tough broadband privacy rules, the Association of National Advertisers predicted today.
"Chairman Pai is a very thoughtful leader who understands the critical role advertising plays as a financial foundation for the online and media marketplace," the ANA said in a blog post hailing Pai's appointment. "Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Chairman Pai have stated forcefully that they intend to take, in Pai’s words, a 'weed-whacker' to much of the Commission’s recent regulatory actions. Therefore, as they both voted against the sweeping privacy rule, it is highly likely they will respond positively to the request ... for a full reconsideration of this recent proposal."
The new privacy regulations, passed by a 3-2 vote last year, require broadband providers to obtain subscribers' explicit consent before drawing on their Web-surfing activity for ad targeting. The rules only apply to Internet service providers; search engines, social networking services and Web publishers are still free to collect and use data as they see fit -- though many adhere to self-regulatory policies that generally require companies to let consumers opt out of behavioral targeting.
The ANA recently joined with other ad groups to petition the FCC to reconsider the regulations. The ad groups contend that broadband providers shouldn't need consumers' opt-in consent for behavioral targeting, unless the targeting is based on data that falls into a narrow category of "sensitive" information. (The ad industry's definition of sensitive data includes material like precise geolocation information, financial account numbers and some kinds of health-related information.)
Consumer advocates point out that broadband providers aren't like other Internet companies, because ISPs are able to glean information about every unencrypted site users visit, as well as revealing metadata about matters such as usage patterns.
The ANA also noted today that Pai opposed a failed proposal for new set-top-box rules that would have enabled consumers to more easily watch television programs on tablets, smartphones and other devices. The ANA opposed that proposal last year, arguing that it could "impact the advertising segment of our economy in very significant and undesirable ways."
The ad group elaborated that the proposed rules may have allowed third parties to "alter or manipulate" ads that were slated to run with TV programs.
Had the rules passed, consumers would have been able to replace their set-top boxes, which cost an average of $231 a year, with apps.