For years, Chrome, Firefox and other browser manufacturers have offered a do-not-track setting aimed at enabling consumers to opt out of online behavioral advertising.
Those settings send a signal to publishers and ad networks, but the recipients are free to ignore the signals. Currently, the vast majority of web companies disregard the signals.
But that could change in January, when California's new Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect. That law allows state residents to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, request deletion of that information, and to opt out of its sale.
A set of regulations proposed in October by Attorney General Xavier Becerra would require companies to honor opt-out requests that people make through browsers, plug-ins or privacy settings.
That proposal is worded as follows: “If a business collects personal information from consumers online, the business shall treat user-enabled privacy controls, such as a browser plugin or privacy setting or other mechanism, that communicate or signal the consumer’s choice to opt-out of the sale of their personal information as a valid request ... for that browser or device, or, if known, for the consumer.”
This week, the Association of National Advertisers weighed in against the proposed requirement, arguing it would take away consumers' ability to pick and choose which companies can sell personal data.
“This mandate will harm consumers, as it could be interpreted to remove their ability to set granular preferences,” ANA executive vice president for government relations Dan Jaffe stated in prepared testimony submitted to Becerra on Wednesday. “This would deprive consumers of the opportunity to exercise meaningful choices and make business-by-business decisions about different entities that may transfer or use data.”
Jaffe adds that the ANA would like companies to have the option to offer a different opt-out mechanism, instead of honoring the browser-based settings.
The ANA also took issue with some other proposed regulations, including one that would require companies receiving opt-out requests to pass along the request to third parties that have received the data in the prior 90 days.
“The new requirement to pass opt-out requests along to a potentially broad range of other businesses would take the consumer’s expressed choice with respect to one business -- like a retail holiday-themed store -- and apply that choice across the marketplace to others, such as those less seasonal in nature,” Jaffe states.
He adds: “The proposed regulations run the risk of significantly reducing the use and value of consumer data, depriving consumers of benefits and advantages they currently receive.”