Ad Industry Asks Congress To Avoid 'Unreasonable' Restrictions On Data Brokers

Congress should avoid imposing “unreasonable barriers to effective and responsible uses of data,” the industry group Privacy for America said in a letter sent Tuesday to House members.

“Data-driven advertising, supported in large part by data services companies, fosters a competitive marketplace where small and mid-size businesses, as well as self-employed individuals, of which many are minority-owned, can compete with the economy’s largest players,” the organization writes. “Losing access to the products provided by data services companies would disproportionately harm the ability of these small businesses to find and retain customers and compete against larger firms in the market.”

The letter was sent on the eve of a scheduled House subcommittee hearing about data brokers and online privacy.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) stated last week that the hearing will “educate Americans on unchecked collection of their sensitive personal information,” and “highlight the further need for a strong national data privacy standard, like the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act.”

The House majority committee staff adds in a hearing memo that current laws “are not sufficient to protect Americans’ data.”

“Americans frequently do not have control over their own personal data nor the ability to stop the unchecked vacuuming up of their most sensitive private information; they cannot control how their private sensitive information is shared, sold, or interpreted by corporate third parties, nor can they delete or correct their own personal data after it has been collected,” that memo says.

Among other privacy provisions, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, introduced last year, would have outlawed some forms of online behavioral advertising. The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the bipartisan measure by a vote of 53-2 last year, but the full House didn't vote on the bill, and the Senate didn't hold hearings on it.

Privacy for America, which opposed the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, says in its new letter that the bill “did not strike the right balance between protecting consumers and allowing for a competitive and vibrant economy,” adding it “would have cut off the lifeblood of the American economy by stymieing vital data services provided to Main Street businesses seeking to support existing customer relationships and find new customers.”

The industry organization -- whose members include the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Digital Advertising Alliance, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Network Advertising Initiative -- also criticized Apple's mobile privacy settings, which prohibit developers from tracking iPhone users across apps, without their consent.

“Limiting the ability to access data through intermediaries creates concentration in markets and marks a turn away from the independent and open Internet,” the organization writes, citing a study it co-sponsored.

Privacy for America also reiterated a prior request that Congress prohibit intermediaries from “meddling” in “the legitimate, responsible data practices of others.”

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