Why The FTC Should Pause On Any Commercial Surveillance And Data Security Rulemaking

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a public forum focused on the risks of commercial data practices. The purpose was to seek public comments for its proposed rulemaking to rein in the unmitigated collection, sale and use of personal data by corporate actors and the risks and harms that come with these practices. 

The AAF (American Advertising Federation) is one of the industry’s prominent associations.  And as such we believe it is incumbent upon us to make our position known on this subject.  Simply stated, AAF is supportive of a national privacy and data security law.  We believe Congress is the appropriate body to pass such a law. We have and continue to encourage them to do so.  That said, as Congress deliberates, we believe it is premature for the FTC to initiate any rulemaking at this time.  In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia vs. EPA there is a question as to whether the agency has the authority to move forward.

The AAF believes that when a national privacy law is passed, the Federal Trade Commission is the appropriate enforcement agency.  We have long been supportive of the agency’s actions to combat false and deceptive advertising and know that this work against bad actors benefits not just consumers, but the vast majority of honest businesses as well.

As to the content of this Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking (ANPR), we are disappointed that there is no mention of the many benefits that come with the responsible use of data and data-driven advertising. For example:

  • Data-driven advertising supports a competitive online marketplace and contributes to strong economic and job growth;

  • It allows small, local and niche businesses to grow and find potential customers nation- and even worldwide; and 

  • Responsible data-driven advertising helps fund the Internet and free content for consumers. Loss of advertising revenue means that much of that free content could go to a subscription-based model, which the Commission has acknowledged many consumers likely would not be able to afford

Studies have shown that consumers are comfortable with data-driven advertising and more than half desire relevant ads.

That is why AAF has urged the FTC to be mindful of these benefits and not take any actions that will harm a beneficial, safe and successful online marketplace supported by the responsible use of data and data-driven advertising.

And we know that our friends at the 4As, ANA, DAA, IAB and NAI feel the same.

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