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."