US Trade Commission: 'regulate targeted ads yourself'

Federal Trade Commision Chairman Jon Liebowitz told cable operators in Los Angeles for the NCTA show that the commission is not interested in regulating behavioural advertising so long as the industry is making “progress” toward self-regulation.

“So long as self-regulation is making forward progress, the FTC is not interested in regulating in this area,” he said at a keynote speech at a plenary session on advertising at the Cable Show. He also said the commission has “great hopes” for proposed self-regulatory guidelines proposed by direct and online marketers in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau.

Leibowitz highlighted one of the online marketing industry’s self-regulatory proposals, which is to explain information-collection practices using common language, and preferably plain language, Leibowitz suggested. “Today, few of us can comprehend the amount of personal data we've left open for capture on the Internet, and disclosure forms are most often written by lawyers, paid, it seems, by the syllable. The consent half of ‘notice and consent’ rarely reflects a consumer's conscious informed choice.”

Leibowitz said that he did not want to shut down responsible businesses, including online marketers and behavioural advertising.

Leibowitz said he had warned that Congress would step in if the industry did not adequately protect consumer information. Leibowtiz reiterated the FTC’s own suggestions for self-regulatory principles, which are 1) inform consumers in plain English and large type what information is being collected and let them choose whether they want that data collected; 2) store that data securely; 3) explain any policy changes clearly; and 4) sensitive data collection must be an opt-in regime, meaning companies have to get affirmative consent.

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