IAB Says It Will Help FTC Refine Privacy Principles, and Propose Its Own in '08

On Friday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau weighed in on the Federal Trade Commission's new proposed privacy principles.

The IAB stated that it endorses the idea of industry self-regulation, but fell short of endorsing the specific, proposed principles issued last week by the FTC.

Instead, the IAB stated that it intends to work with the FTC "on some of the substantive points from the draft proposal, to achieve language that respects the importance of consumer control and that protects consumer privacy ... while preserving the free content and services supported by advertising online."

The IAB also stated that it intends to propose new privacy principles for the industry early next year.

"We're looking at the same types of issues," said Mike Zaneis, vice president of public policy at the IAB. "There's a lot of overlap in our draft principles and what the FTC released."

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In the seven-page document issued last week by the FTC, "Online Behavioral Advertising: Moving the Discussion Forward to Possible Self-Regulatory Principles," the regulatory body focused on behavioral targeting, or tracking people's online searches and Web-surfing history and then serving them ads based on that behavior.

One FTC-proposed provision called for Web sites that collect data about consumers to provide "a clear, concise, consumer-friendly, and prominent statement" explaining their practices and giving consumers the ability to opt-out.

That's likely to be among the most controversial proposals from marketers' standpoint, because if "clear" and "prominent" is defined in terms analogous to the legal standard of "clear and conspicuous," many sites will likely have to revamp themselves to call more attention to their privacy policies.

The FTC also suggested that Web sites should obtain consumers' affirmative consent to any material changes in privacy policies. Zaneis maintains that the proposal raises a number of questions, including what constitutes material changes and the procedure for seeking visitors' consent.

The FTC principles grew out of a two-day town hall meeting last month about privacy and online advertising.

Immediately before the meeting, a coalition of advocates led by the Center for Democracy & Technology proposed that the government create a "do-not-track" list for people who wanted to opt-out of behavioral targeting.

The IAB, Online Publishers Association and others opposed that idea, saying that additional regulation would slow the growth of the online ad industry.

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