ANA Weighs In Against California Privacy Proposal

The Association of National Advertisers is seeking to rally opposition to a proposed California privacy law that would require broadband providers to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before drawing on their online browsing history for ad purposes.

The bill, introduced this week by Assemblyman Ed Chau, "will set a dangerous precedent and potentially lead other states to adopt their own ISP privacy laws as well, creating a hazardous web of conflicting state-by-state laws for any company operating in the online space," ANA executive vice president Dan Jaffe writes in a blog post opposing the measure.

Eighteen other states are considering passing new online privacy bills, but the ANA finds California's proposal particularly concerning. "Due to California’s enormous impact on the U.S. economy in general, if this legislation were to pass, it would create broad adverse precedents and have immediate substantially harmful marketplace impacts," Jaffe writes.

Jaffe adds that the ANA opposes state legislation in this area. "These kinds of broad national issues should be regulated at the federal level," he tells MediaPost.

Chau's measure comes three months after President Donald Trump signed a repeal of nationwide privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC's nixed rules also required broadband providers to obtain subscribers' explicit consent before using their online browsing history for behavioral advertising.

A large majority of the public appeared to support the FCC's regulations. An April survey by Huffington Post and YouGov reportedly showed that more than 70% of Republicans and Democrats wanted Trump to veto the repeal.

Privacy advocates have long said broadband providers should obtain people's explicit permission before tracking them for ad purposes. Among other reasons, advocates argue that Internet service providers are uniquely positioned to capture comprehensive data about subscribers, because only ISPs have access to all unencrypted sites visited by customers.

The ANA -- along with broadband providers and Google -- opposed the FCC's scrapped privacy regulations. Opponents generally argued that all companies, including broadband providers, should be able to collect and use most Web browsing data on an opt-out basis. (Currently, many online ad companies allow allow consumers to opt out of receiving targeted ads, but require opt-in consent before serving ads based on a narrow category of "sensitive" data -- like financial account numbers, or health information.)

Not all online trade groups agree with the ANA. Jason Kint, CEO of the online publishers' group Digital Content Next, says the organization is still analyzing Chau's bill, but generally supports "a higher bar for any company tracking consumers across the entire web."

He adds: "Consumers don't expect it and there clearly needs to be more transparency and effective choice for consumers."

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