Today three advocacy organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), demanding that it investigate and impose drastic requirements on entities involved in online data analytics and behavioral advertising. In their complaint, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (“U.S. PIRG”), the Center for Digital Democracy and the World Privacy Forum target Google, Yahoo!, BlueKai, PubMatic, TARGUSinfo and others for allegedly participating in what the U.S. PIRG terms a “Wild West” of online collection and auctioning of data for marketing purposes.

The complaint advances a detailed technical description of some aspects of the behavioral advertising world and states that the “compilation and analysis of data on users in real time involve highly sophisticated data mining technologies that few users—and likely regulators!— understand.” The advocacy groups ask the FTC to “compel companies involved in real-time online tracking and auction bidding, including providing related data optimization, to provide an opt-in for such a process.” They also ask the FTC to “[e]nsure that consumers receive fair financial compensation for the use of their data.”