Talking Back To The FTC

The people (well, about 60 of you) have spoken. When the Federal Trade Commission issued its proposed principles for self-regulation in the behavioral targeting industry late last year, it invited comment from individuals and companies. The deadline for submissions was extended once during the winter, and now most of the comments appear to be posted at the FTC site ( While some observers seemed underwhelmed by the volume of industry commentary, the base of respondents here is much deeper and broader than commentary to a previous session on ad targeting and privacy. Moreover, we get to see major stakeholders like AT&T, Verizon, the U.S. Public Interest Group, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all weight in on the issue formally and publicly. And many of the respondents created extensive, point-by-point responses to the FTC's proposed policy guidelines. Anyone deeply involved in the BT industry will want to browse this collection at length. Here, we wanted to call out a selection of comments and insights from the 61 submissions to give readers a flavor of where various stakeholders are coming into the debate.



 "The burden of education on targeting and tracking has thus far fallen on the advertising networks that have promoted behavioral advertising techniques to advertisers, publishers and their agents... .TRUSTe promotes that advertisers and publishers are also accountable for the privacy of internet users needs. In many cases, the most appropriate source for notice to consumers is the owner of the website where the collection is initiated or takes place."-- Comments submitted from TRUSTe

"[T]he principle of transparency and consumer control should meaningfully provide for an opt-in mechanism before any data are collected. The principle should be revised to include a stipulation that consumers are clearly informed about the goals and nature of the marketing campaign or campaigns (including how the data are to be used and how the campaign is structured-for example, that it will include mobile marketing, contacts via IM, broadband videos, etc.)." -- Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy and Edward Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director, U.S. Pirg

"In our substantive comments on the proposed principles, we discuss three general themes that Google believes the FTC should consider as it moves forward with refining the proposed principles: the importance of distinguishing between personally identifying information (PII) and information that is not personally identifying (non-PII); the need to have a narrower definition of "behavioral advertising"; and the necessity of drawing a distinction between first-party advertising and third-party advertising....

As currently drafted the proposed principles would apply to contextual advertising, which we define as advertising that is provided in response to the current activities of a user. For example, our AdWords program allows us to provide ads on in response to search queries... . We believe this type of advertising should not be considered behavioral advertising, even if such analysis takes into consideration previous search queries." -- Alan Davidson, Senior Policy Counsul and Head of U.S. Policy, Google, Inc.

 "In short, self-regulatory principles for online advertising should be calibrated to

the particular type of online advertising activity undertaken by an entity. In all instances, an entity engaged in online advertising or multi-site advertising should be required to ensure consumers receive notice about their advertising activities. As the information upon which ads are delivered becomes more personal or sensitive, additional obligations should follow. This tiered and nuanced approach appropriately recognizes the different privacy concerns posed by different forms of online advertising. It can be briefly summarized graphically as follows:


Sensitive Personally Identifiable Information Advertising - Opt-in Consent


Personally Identifiable Information Advertising - Propsective Use: Opt-out Choice; Retroactive Use: Opt-in Consent


Behavioral Advertising -- Opt-out Choice


Multi-Site Advertising - Pass-through Notice


Online Advertising - Prominent Notice, Security, Data Retention" -- Comments submitted by Microsoft, Corp


"In the principles announced yesterday, NAI members including Yahoo and Blue Lithium pledged not to create online behavioral advertising segments on their advertising networks for children under the age of 13, about certain medical and health conditions (including HIV/AIDS status, sexually related conditions, psychiatric conditions, cancer status, and abortion related), and about certain personal life information (including sexual behavior/orientation/identity and criminal victim status)."

"[Yahoo] today is announcing that we will be engaging our users in dialogue through a large-scale education campaign on our network... . In general, users will be encouraged to learn more about the ads they are receiving and their privacy. The information they will receive when they click through for more information will include an explanation of how customization works, how they can participate in the NAI opt-out, and a link to our privacy policy where they can find more comprehensive information." -- David Hantman, VP Global Public Policy, Yahoo, Inc.


"Any self-regulatory regime must be technology-neutral, allowing companies that engage in behavioral advertising through different technologies to operate on a level playing field. This principle also will enable the self-regulatory principles to capture new behavioral advertising technologies as they arise, and, very importantly, provide consumers with similar expectations of privacy protections over time... .The self-regulatory principles must be provider-neutral and publisher- neutral. The Commission Staff should not inadvertently skew the marketplace by adopting proposed self-regulatory principles that foster a regime where some types and sizes of companies enjoy the benefits of behaviorally-targeted ad revenue, while others do not."-- Robert Dykes, CEO, NebuAd, Inc.

"In sum, behavioral information derived from the use of anonymous tracking techniques is necessary to facilitate many services unrelated to advertising, to create desirable (and, in many cases, free) content, and to design and refine products and services that provide consumers with the best possible online experience. None of these beneficial uses of anonymous behavioral data raises substantial privacy concerns. Accordingly, to avoid sweeping these practices into the scope of this proceeding, the Commission should clarify that the proposed principles are not intended to apply to website operators' collection and use of behavioral data to support content customization and personalization features, website optimization and other purposes unrelated to behavioral advertising... .OPA also urges the Commission to modify its definition of behavioral advertising to narrow the scope of this proceeding to the collection and use of PII."-- Pam Horan, President, Online Publishers Association

"Simply put, there is a fundamental mismatch between the technologies of tracking and targeting and consumers' ability to exercise informed judgment and control over their personal data. The result is that consumers suffer a persistent and substantial disadvantage vis-à-vis marketers... . The industry focuses on providing a sliver of the population that has the necessary characteristics to exercise choice enough of an option to be placated and silent while the vast majority of consumers are exploited... ."-- Mark Cooper, Research Director Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection, CFA, and Chris Murray, Senior Counsel, Consumers Union



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