FTC To Revamp Digital Advertising Guidance

The Federal Trade Commission plans a “start-to-finish reboot” to its guidance for digital advertisers, the agency said Friday.

The agency last issued updated guidance for online disclosures in 2013, when it recommended that marketers make sure all terms, conditions and disclaimers were available to people who accessed ads on small mobile screens.

Lesley Fair, a senior attorney with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated Friday: “It’s time for a start-to-finish reboot, given the major changes in advertising tactics and techniques that marketers use.”

Fair says the agency is seeking comments on numerous issues, including whether companies are designing their mobile interfaces in ways that deceive users.

“One particular concern is the increased use of dark patterns, manipulative user interface design, and other forms of digital deception that pose unique risks to consumers online and in the mobile space,” Fair stated.

The agency adds that some companies have cited the 2013 guidance to justify misleading practices.

“For example,” the FTC writes, “firms have claimed that they can avoid liability under the FTC Act by burying disclosures behind hyperlinks, a practice that can expose consumers to financial fraud, intrusive surveillance, and other harms.

The FTC is also seeking comments on sponsored ads on social media, ads embedded in games and virtual reality and micro-targeted ads. 

In addition, the agency says it's seeking input on “how guidance on the use of hyperlinks can be strengthened to better protect consumers,” as well as “the adequacy of online disclosures when consumers must navigate multiple webpages,” among other topics.

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