A number of industry organizations filed comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy report, saying that self-regulation is an effective measure to protect consumer privacy on the Internet and, therefore, Do Not Track legislation is unnecessary.
On Dec. 1, 2010, the FTC released its preliminary staff report, “A Preliminary FTC Staff Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers.”
In addition to laying out three principles for businesses to follow to protect consumer information, the report called for a Do Not Track mechanism for online behavioral advertising.
The agency sought public comment on the report, and in a joint filing, the American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau responded.
Calling legislative solutions “too inflexible” to respond to technological developments, the industry groups said that “self-regulation and education constitute the most effective framework for protecting consumer privacy while ensuring the Internet remains a platform for innovation.”
The groups advocated for continued utilization of the industry’s self-regulatory program with the use of the DMA’s accountability program and the National Advertising Review Council, as well as the advertising option icon, which the groups said “realizes the Commission’s vision for a Do Not Track mechanism.”
“Self-regulation is responsive to government and consumer concerns, feasible in light of existing technology and business practices, and flexible enough to respond to the rapid innovation that is characteristic of this highly complex and technologically sophisticated and rapidly developing marketplace,” the groups wrote.
In separate comments, the Promotion Marketing Association similarly argued that a government-mandated Do Not Track mechanism would be “unnecessarily restrictive on the flow of information, and would be detrimental to both online businesses and consumers.”
The association expressed concern about the creation of standardized policies across all industries, which use consumer information in significantly different ways. “The implementation of such a mechanism would likely increase the cost of advertising by reducing the availability of behavioral advertising as a valid marketing tool, harming both the consumer and industry members,” the PMA wrote in comments co-authored by attorneys at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
To read the comments from the 4As, AAF, ANA, DMA, and IAB in their entirety, click here.
To read the PMA’s comments, click here.
Why it matters: When the time period for public comment expired February 18, 439 comments had been filed with the FTC. Reactions to the agency’s report varied, from the advertising industry’s concerns to a comment filed by a coalition of 15 states, encouraging the FTC to consider the size, scope, and resources of businesses, as well as emphasizing the need to protect the privacy of children. Several consumer groups also weighed in, supporting the Do Not Track feature among other limitations on the collection and use of consumer data.