Advertisers can expect the release of the updated Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule by the end of 2012, agency Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently promised.
Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Conference in Washington, D.C., Leibowitz declined to provide a specific date for the updated Rule. “We are looking at all the comments that came in and weighing how to tweak the regulation,” he told attendees.
Proposed changes include broader definitions of terms like “personal information” and “collection”; revisions to the parental notice requirements and consent mechanisms; changes to the existing safe harbor programs; and requirements for the confidentiality and security of children’s information.
Leibowitz was less clear about a timeline for the creation of a Do Not Track mechanism for online behavioral advertising, noting that completion by the end of the year is “not a certainty.” “We’re still making forward progress,” he said. “We continue to be optimistic.”
In an interview with the WSJ after the conference, Leibowitz described the Do Not Track process as “two steps forward and one step back.” “The question is whether Do Not Track is going to allow consumers not to have information collected about them. We’re still working through that process,” he said. “I think companies want to be on the right side of consumers. And if being on the right side of consumers means allowing some modest opt-out for Americans who don’t want their information collected, then I think at the end of the day we’ll see more support in the business community.”
He also speculated that industry members who oppose Do Not Track could face consumer backlash and possible federal legislation.
“If industry doesn’t give consumers some modest control over where their data go, they risk a legislative backlash that will be much more prescriptive next year,” Leibowitz cautioned. “One of the few issues that isn’t partisan in Congress is privacy. So I think it’s very possible you’ll see privacy legislation going forward if members of Congress aren’t satisfied that companies are giving consumers some choice about where their information goes.”
Why it matters: Both topics – revisions to the COPPA Rule and Do Not Track – have made headlines the last few years as the FTC has worked toward implementation. The COPPA changes, initially proposed in September 2011, have undergone additional tweaks followed by a second comment period. And while Do Not Track has been the subject of much speculation, the movement has recently stalled due to a lack of consensus about implementation. As rumors persist that Chairman Leibowitz will leave his post in the coming months, he may have motivation to push both issues forward.