To address important consumer privacy concerns associated
with online behavioral advertising, the Federal Trade Commission recently
released a set of proposed principles for advertisers to follow.
The “principles” include (a) that web sites that collect
behavioral data should prominently display this fact and give consumers the
option to “opt-out” of the collection, (b) any data that is collected should be
“reasonably protected” by the collector and the collector should retain the
data only for legitimate business or law enforcement needs, (c) companies
should only collect sensitive data for behavioral advertising if they obtain
affirmative express consent from the consumer to receive such advertising, and
(d) companies should obtain affirmative express consent from affected consumers
as a result of materially different privacy policies or other changes.
The FTC’s concentration on this issue is good news. Whether
an online advertiser or a user of the “Web 2.0” type sites, there is a need for
more clarity as to the issues that arise in behavioral advertising. The FTC’s
initial proposed principles make sense for all involved parties.
The devil, as usual, is in the details. Defining information
that qualifies as “behavioral data” and similar tasks are still in front of the
FTC and parties that choose to comment on the proposed principles. The initial
suggestions are reasonable, however, and we can expect to see changes, if any,
in the details as opposed to the broad policy principles.