The ad industry is once again asking the Federal Trade Commission to support a national privacy law that would override state statutes, including a sweeping California measure set to take effect next year.
“Our country is in need of a consistent federal policy on consumer privacy that sets forth clear rules of the road that are not dependent on geography, and do not burden legitimate consumer and business interests,” the Association of National Advertisers says in comments sent Thursday to the FTC.
The ad industry -- which previously opposed privacy regulations -- changed course last year after California passed the Consumer Privacy Act. That law gives consumers the right to learn what information has been collected about them by companies, the right to have that information deleted, and the right to prevent the sale of that data.
Now, industry groups are pressing for new laws that would preempt state measures. The ANA specifically says it supports a federal statute that would establish “clear, enforceable, and nationwide” privacy standards.
“We believe that without this approach, it is almost inevitable that the U.S. will be burdened by a Balkanized patchwork of inconsistent state laws that will be destructive, both for consumers and businesses,” the ANA writes.
The organization elaborates that it wants the FTC to issue a set of broad privacy rules that would outlaw some uses of data while allowing others.
“We support a standard that would delineate proper and improper business behaviors, so consumers are relieved from the need to constantly read and understand privacy policies and opt-in or out of data practices,” the ANA writes.
The ANA adds that companies should be prohibited from using data for “eligibility, discriminatory or fraudulent purposes.”
The letter doesn't define eligibility, but since 2012 the self-regulatory group Digital Advertising Alliance has prohibited members from collecting any information about consumers in order to determine their eligibility for employment, credit, health care or insurance.
Like other business groups, the ANA finds fault with California's privacy law, arguing it will create “significant compliance costs for businesses.”
Those costs may pose hardships for small and medium-size companies, the ANA contends.
“While some may believe that this is a justifiable price to pay for consumer privacy, it cannot be ignored that these increased costs may detrimentally impact many smaller market participants, and in turn lead to fewer options for consumers,” the ANA writes.
The organization has made similar arguments to the FTC before.
Of course, any decision about whether to override California's law is ultimately up to Congress, not the FTC. And, for now, federal legislators have made it clear they won't do anything to weaken California's law.
“We’re not going to get 60 votes for anything and replace a progressive California law, however flawed you may think it is, with a nonprogressive federal law,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said at a hearing last year.