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FTC decides no privacy laws for Behavioral Targeting

by | Feb 14, 2009 | Advertising & Marketing | 0 comments

By Wendy Davis
The Federal Trade Commission said there’s no need for new privacy laws that would regulate behavioral targeting companies’ efforts to collect data about consumers.
In a 55-page report, the agency called on online ad companies to provide clear and prominent notice about behavioral targeting and also allow consumers to opt out.
The FTC eschews the need for new laws, but privacy advocates quickly indicated they disagree. The Center for Democracy & Technology issued a report saying that it “looks forward to working with the agency and the Senate Commerce Committee on legislation that could address online behavioral advertising and general consumer privacy.”
Advocates also are continuing to press for a do-not-track registry. Chris Hoofnagle, director of information privacy programs at Berkeley Center for Law and Policy, said in a conference call that consumers weren’t likely to opt out of targeting at each Web site they visited. For that reason, he said, any system that relies on site-by-site opt-outs is “calculated to fail.”
Notably, two commissioners wrote separately to express doubts about continued self-regulation. Pamela Jones Harbour wrote that laws were “not prudent at this time,” but then added that she didn’t “fully support a self-regulatory approach to behavioral advertising, which the staff report appears to advocate.”
Jon Leibowitz also warned the online ad industry that laws might be coming. “Industry needs to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous self-regulation or it will certainly invite legislation by Congress and a more regulatory approach by our Commission,” he wrote. “Put simply, this could be the last clear chance to show that self-regulation can — and will — effectively protect consumers’ privacy in a dynamic online marketplace.”