ANA CEO Bob Liodice Responds to FTC’s David Vladeck on Do Not Track

David Vladeck, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, gave an important speech on Do Not Track issues on March 8. While acknowledging that behavioral advertising benefits consumers, he noted it raises "serious privacy concerns." While generally complimentary of the progress of industry self-regulatory efforts, he set out five "essential components" a satisfactory Do Not Track mechanism should contain. These components include ease of use for consumers, enforceability, universality, specific controls on collection and use of data, and persistence of consumer choice.

ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice responded to Director Vladeck on behalf of the Digital Advertising Alliance, which comprises the ANA and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The response follows.

Statement of Bob Liodice, President and CEO, ANA on remarks by FTC Director of Bureau Consumer Protection, FTC, to the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Transformation Conference on FTC proposal on Do Not Track

Speaking on behalf of the advertising industry we have three immediate reactions.

First, we were very gratified at the extent Director Vladeck went to both recognize and support the enormous effort the industry has put in to developing an effective, enforceable, broadly accepted self regulatory program for behavioral advertising. His words were strong: "encouraging", "promising", and "important step forward," "meaningful choice." These give us strong encouragement to complete our effort — to bring it home.

If there were ever any doubt about the importance of companies quickly implementing the cross industry self regulatory Principles, they are now over. We simply must implement this program — all of us, now, marketers, agencies and media together.

Second, even with the strong support for self regulation, we were confused by several of the other messages.

Although the FTC is asking for a single, simple-to-use approach to better consumer notice and choice, Director Vladeck's remarks seemed to be encouraging the development of multiple, unaligned programs. That seems to us to directly conflict with the FTC's stated goal of a single simple-to-use system. In fact, one of the great accomplishments of our current program has been to bring disparate parts of our industry together into a single program — the only program that is uniting more than 5,000 companies in proactive protection of consumer rights, expectation and choice.

We were also concerned with Director Vladeck's candid admission that the FTC doesn't have a workable definition of "tracking," "collection," or "first party marketing." Here, he spent his entire speech emphasizing the need for a universal Do Not Track mechanism, yet he can't fully define what that means. We do have a working and workable definition in our self-regulatory program. Let us move forward with that, and prevent the kind of confusion that perplexes consumers and impinges business growth.

And we were also concerned by the mixed messages the FTC is burying within its support. I speak for all our association partners when I say the FTC's recent, aggressive support for browser-based solutions has definitely confused the marketplace and threatens to hinder the progress of self-regulation. As our associations and technology partners have strived to sign up participants for our self-regulatory program, more than a few have said, "why do I need to bother, if it's going to be built into the browsers?"

So, we are concerned that there are some mixed messages.

But, we also see a light at the end of the tunnel — an opportunity to deliver exactly what the Commission says we need to deliver to consumers — the notice, choice, transparency, safety, simplicity and comfort they deserve.

Following Director Vladeck's prompt, and on behalf of the major advertising trade associations, we are calling on all the major internet browser companies to come to the table and work with us to meld the cross-industry program with browser implementation. Let's create a single, workable, universal program that delivers transparency and choice for consumers, instead of four different browser-based solutions. Let's meet the five challenges the FTC outlined yesterday with a single program that marries the comprehensive industry-backed initiative to solid and consistent technology solutions.

If instead, we as an industry go down the path of conflicting, disparate programs, we will be ourselves making the case for regulation. It is of the utmost importance that we not do that. We agree with Director Vladeck when he says, "We love to see companies working collaboratively, advertisers and publishers, advertisers and browser makers." This indeed is the straightest and least confusing path forward.