Ad Industry Asks Congress To Overturn Broadband Privacy Rules

The ad industry is asking Congress to overturn "onerous and unnecessary" broadband privacy rules that prohibit Internet service providers from drawing on people's Web-surfing activity without their opt-in consent.

The rules, passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission, "establish a very harmful precedent for the entire internet ecosystem," the Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Network Advertising Initiative, Data & Marketing Association and other groups say today in a letter sent to lawmakers.

"The FCC Order would create confusion and interfere with the ability of consumers to receive customized services and capabilities they enjoy and be informed of new products and discount offers," the groups write.

They are asking Congress to disapprove of the regulations pursuant to the Congressional Review Act -- a rarely used 1996 law that allows federal lawmakers to overturn recent agency decisions.

The ANA and other critics argue that the new rules are more stringent than the standards recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. That agency advises companies to obtain opt-in consent before targeting ads based on "sensitive" data -- a vague term that many companies interpret as including precise geolocation data, financial account numbers and some types of health information.

"Instead of mirroring the FTC’s well-established and time-tested approach, the FCC unnecessarily imposed new privacy restrictions that will disserve consumers and stifle innovation in the online marketplace," the ANA and others argue.

The letter, which was also signed by broadband industry groups, comes one day after a coalition of conservative and libertarian nonprofits made a similar request to Congress.

Consumer advocacy groups, which support the new privacy rules, slammed the critics for using an "irresponsible, scorched-earth tactic" that "is as harmful as it is hypocritical."

"The cable, telecom, wireless, and advertising lobbies request ... is just another industry attempt to overturn rules that empower users and give them a say in how their private information may be used," the ACLU, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Free Press and 15 other groups say in a letter sent to lawmakers today.

The advocacy groups add that broadband providers "have a largely unencumbered view into their customers’ online communications," including information about the sites they visit and messages they send. "Even when that traffic is encrypted, ISPs can gather vast troves of valuable information on their users’ habits," the organizations write.

"The ISPs’ overreaction to the FCC’s broadband privacy rules has been remarkable," the groups say, adding that the rules don't prohibit broadband providers from engaging in targeted advertising. "ISPs can and likely will continue to be able to benefit from use and sharing of their customers’ data, so long as those customers consent to such uses. The rules merely require the ISPs to obtain that informed consent."

4 comments about "Ad Industry Asks Congress To Overturn Broadband Privacy Rules".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, January 27, 2017 at 6:09 p.m.

    ... and they should also be allowed to tap into 'phone conversations and read their mail?

  2. Bo Sacks from Precision Media Group, January 29, 2017 at 8:59 p.m.

    As I keep reading articles in the trade press about the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and their request for free invasive reign on all things advertising, especially including their wish that the public have no rights of privacy on the web, an old quote keeps popping into my head: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness . . .  You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"

    That was in a Senate hearing a long time ago when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was being chastised by Boston lawyer Joseph Welch on a very important but completely different subject.  Even so the quote still stands strong and true.  It makes me ask the question: Do the IAB and ANA have any sense of decency?

    The conclusion I have is that greed is their sole mistress and that they have long ago forgotten any form of decency in their pursuit of gross profits. The ad agencies are on a horrific roll of ultra-intrusion into our personal lives, creating an unnecessary adversarial condition between consumers and brands. It makes me wonder when they will demand the right to tap our phones and track our every whereabouts in ways we have yet not imagined, all in the pursuit of a few more shekels. Perhaps they already do that and we just don't yet know of it.

    It is corporate barbarism and piratical personal plundering of an innocent and mostly uniformed public. They wish in their totally indifferent way to loot people's right not to be tracked like a rodent in a maze.  My observations go directly to the ANA and the IAB. Sirs, your requests have no decency whatsoever. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, January 30, 2017 at 8:40 a.m.

    I agree, Bo, that greed is at the root of many of the problems confronting digital media, but I'd go a step beyond blaming the agencies for barraging the online public with unwanted, lousey, ads. After all, the agency clients gleefully go along with the barrage part as well as the intrusive media buys that pester people with scads of redundent ads---indeed, it's the advertisers who give the agencies their marching orders in most cases. Also, what about the ad sellers? How many of them are turning away "business" to limit the burden being placed on their users? In fact, how many ad sellers---website "publishers"---even know what ads are running on their sites---and where? Must machines handle everything? Perhaps, that's the answer. Since almost everything in Digital media is automated, perhaps, we should blame the machines?

  4. Bo Sacks from Precision Media Group replied, January 30, 2017 at 1:13 p.m.

    NO Ed let's stick with blaming greed.


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