After several months of discussion, the FTC formally announced that it will host a workshop to address “online behavioral advertising” in Washington, D.C. on November 1-2, 2007. The FTC’s press release describes “online behavioral advertising” as involving “collection of information about a consumer’s activities online—including the searches the consumer has conducted, the Web pages visited, and the content the consumer has viewed. The information is then used to target advertising to the consumer that is intended to reflect the consumer’s interests, and thus increase the effectiveness of advertising.”

This workshop follows two related workshops, one conducted in 2000 on the subject of “online profiling,” and the 2006 conference on “Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-Ade.”

The FTC has requested comments by October 19, 2007 on issues to be addressed at the Town Hall, including:

  • How does online behavioral advertising work? What types of companies play a role in this market?
  • What types of data are collected? Is the data personally identifiable or anonymous? Even when the data is anonymous, is it, or could it be, combined with personally identifiable data from other sources?
  • How is the data used, and by whom? Is it shared or sold? Is the data used for any purposes other than to target advertising?
  • How has the online advertising market, and specifically behavioral advertising, changed since 2000?
  • What security protections are companies providing for the consumer data that they collect, use, transfer, or store?
  • What do consumers understand about the collection of their information online for use in advertising?
  • Are companies disclosing their online data-collection practices to consumers? Are these disclosures an appropriate and effective way to inform the public about these practices? Are companies offering consumers choices about how data is collected and used?
  • What standards do, or should, govern practices related to online behavioral advertising? Are companies following the Network Advertising Initiative Principles, originally issued in 2000 for online network advertising companies? Are these principles still relevant, in light of changes in the marketplace? What other legal or self-regulatory standards are applicable to these practices? Are certain practices generally regarded as appropriate or inappropriate in this area?
  • What changes are anticipated in the online behavioral advertising market over the next five years? Will information be collected through technological means other than cookies? Is behavioral advertising moving beyond the Internet into other technologies?