FTC Releases Privacy Report, Recommends Do-Not-Track

The FTC has released a draft of its long-awaited privacy report.  The report, intended to be a framework for policy makers and industry, contains specific recommendations to respond to consumer concerns about online privacy.  Specifically, the report recommends a "do-not-track" list for consumers that wish to opt-out of online behavioral advertising.  While noting the benefits provided by online behavioral advertising, such as free content and services, it notes that consumers remained concerned about control over their data in the online environment.  The FTC staff now believes that a do-not-track option would be technologically feasible, through the use of a cookie or similar device placed on a user's browser. 

The FTC report states that such a mechanism would have to be accomplished through legislation, as it does not have the authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to push through a program on its own.  It also states that such a program could be accomplished through "robust, enforceable self-regulation."  Our industry has been developing a comprehensive new self-regulatory program that gives consumers enhanced control over the collection and use of data regarding their Web viewing for online behavioral advertising purposes.  This includes an easily identifiable icon placed on or near online ads which link to a consumer education and opt-out page, www.aboutads.info.   The report states that industry efforts have "yet to be implemented on an industry-wide basis," but we are making every effort to move this program to broad adoption since its rollout on October 4th.  We hope that the FTC and the Congress will allow this program to more fully develop before any decisions about legislative options are made. 

Comments on the draft will be accepted until January 31, 2011.  We plan on filing with the FTC.  If you have any suggested input, please let us know.  You can contact Dan Jaffe in ANA's Washington office at 202-296-2359 or at djaffe@ana.net.

Dan Jaffe has also posted more on this issue at his Regulatory Rumblings blog.