Statement of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) on today’s FCC Broadband Privacy Vote

The FCC’s new sweeping privacy rules decision is unprecedented, misguided, counterproductive, and potentially extremely harmful. Subjecting virtually all web browsing and application use data to opt-in consent is completely inconsistent with its long-standing treatment by the FTC, the states, and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) self-regulatory program. ANA believed it was a positive step when the FCC stated it would distinguish between sensitive and non-sensitive data, but this proved to be merely misleading lip-service. The new definition of sensitive data adopted by the Commission today would encompass and swallow a vast amount of routine consumer data on the Internet and mobile media.

No one doubts that sensitive consumer data exists and that it should be protected. However, when virtually all ISP and app use data is treated as sensitive, the public will become desensitized to what is truly significant and what deserves enhanced notice and regulation.

This approach also will undermine the financial underpinning that advertising provides in support of the data-driven online economy. Consumers will be bombarded with opt-in notice requirements every time they search online, however innocuous the data they seek might be. The FCC proposal, for example, could trigger an opt-in notice when consumers search for a certain type of orange juice, pizza, or sports site. This is clearly an absurd result. Surely this type of information does not need the extreme level of protection adopted today by the FCC, but would be swept in under the FCC’s virtually all-encompassing browser and app usage privacy regime. The only way to avoid this onerous result is to allow consumers global opt-in consents that will mask the privacy issues involved.

ANA is committed to seeing these rules undone, either by court challenges or action on Capitol Hill to reverse this extreme overreach by the agency.