On November 1 and 2, the FTC hosted a town hall meeting to discuss privacy and online behavioral advertising - the 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) which is then used to target advertising to the consumer. The FTC examined a similar issue in 2000, but noted that recent technological advances and complaints filed with the FTC by consumer advocacy groups and the New York Attorney General regarding privacy concerns and online behavioral advertising prompted the FTC to hold the town hall meeting.
FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz spoke at the meeting and said "I am concerned when my personal information is sold to or shared with third parties – or when my online conduct is monitored across several websites or across different web-based services – especially when there is no effective notice or consent to these practices. And it should really trouble all of us that seemingly anonymous searching and surfing can be traced back to specific individuals – and that not all information that companies have collected about us is secure from data breaches or release."
Commissioner Leibowitz suggested that the parties involved in targeted advertising provide better information about their practices and meaningful choices for consumers and consider using standardized privacy policies and shorter notices. He urged companies to adopt an opt-in approach to online tracking, especially when it comes to sharing consumer information with third parties and sharing it across various web-based services. And he concluded by saying, "It’s always great when the competitive marketplace can solve these types of problems, although my sense here is that the market alone may not be able to resolve all the issues inherent in behavioral marketing. So at the Commission, we will listen closely to what online marketers are doing, how they are doing it, and who they are doing it to.... We also will continue to monitor industry behavior – and if we see problematic practices, the Commission won’t hesitate to bring cases."