Under the Chairmanship of Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (the “Committee”) continues to examine issues of data privacy and consumer protection. On June 28, 2012, the Committee held a hearing titled “The Need for Privacy Protections: Is Industry Self-Regulation Adequate?” This hearing followed up on the Committee’s May 9th hearing to review privacy frameworks set forth by the Obama Administration and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).

The June hearing focused on efforts by industry to address privacy concerns via the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (“DAA”) self-regulatory program. The DAA is a coalition of the nation’s leading media and marketing trade associations, including the Association of National Advertisers, the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Network Advertising Initiative. The DAA administers a self-regulatory program that calls for entities engaged in collection of web viewing data to provide enhanced transparency and consumer control.

At the hearing, Chairman Rockefeller expressed his skepticism about self-regulation and pledged to continue supporting legislation and holding hearings to promote adequate consumer protection. In May 2011, he introduced S. 913, the Do-Not-Track Online Act, but the bill has not yet been formally considered in the Committee. During her opening remarks, Senator Ayotte (R-NH) cautioned against rushing toward legislation. She stated that consumers and the market, rather than Congress, are best suited to address concerns.

Mr. Bob Liodice, President and CEO, Association of National Advertisers, speaking on behalf of the DAA, reported on the evolution and progress of the DAA’s Self-Regulatory Program for online data collection. He explained that the DAA Program has evolved with the FTC’s encouragement, represents industry consensus on an opt-out standard, and is already being expanded to the mobile ecosystem. He emphasized the value realized for consumers through data collection and use, and explained that data collection is critical to the operation and functionality of the Internet.