ANA: Industry Should Strengthen Privacy Rights

It's taken nearly two weeks, but the Association of National Advertisers today addressed reports that President Trump's consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, obtained personal data from 50 million Facebook users.

"Our collective ecosystem can disappoint -- and, in certain instances, it materially fails us," the ANA acknowledged today in a statement about the debacle. "The current global outrage over the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data issue represents enormous frustration with institutions that fall short on promises of protection and safeguards."

The group adds that the industry "has a responsibility to strengthen consumers’ fundamental rights to privacy."

The ANA's latest statement is fairly general, but the group offers at least one proposal -- that the "ecoysystem" should "systematically 'report back' to consumers what advertisers know and what choices consumers have to protect their privacy."

"We need to take this as a wake-up call to do better," ANA chief executive officer Bob Liodice tells MediaPost.

"What we're suggesting is that consumers should have a basic understanding of what information is being retained," Liodice says, adding that consumers should be able to decide "in a more aggressive way" what information about them should be discarded by the major platforms.

The organization also argues that Facebook (and other platforms) should provide advertisers with more information. "Transparency must be accepted as the cost of entry for all 'walled garden' platforms to engage brands," the ANA writes. "What happens in the dark shadows of those 'walls' is seldom clear and understandable to consumers and advertisers...Neither consumers nor brands are served by Walled Gardens that prevent complete transparency, accountability, and measurement."

At the same time, the group clearly aims to stave off regulations, like Europe's GDPR, which will give European consumers more control over their data. "The GDPR is a blunt response that may provide some degree of consumer protection," the ANA stated today. "However, the cost to the free-flowing information transfer system is substantial."

In the U.S., the ANA lobbied extensively against privacy regulations, including a set of broadband privacy rules that were passed by the Federal Communications Commission, but later repealed by Congress.

The ANA's new statement comes one day after the Advertising Research Foundation called for new ad industry standards governing consumer data.

For its part, Facebook said this week that it will revamp its privacy settings to make it easier for users to manage data about themselves.

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