AAF’s Comments on Behavioral Advertising to Federal Trade Commission

FTC Proposed Behavioral Advertising Principles

April 10, 2008
To: AAF Members
From: Clark Rector Jr., Senior Vice President – Government Affairs
Re: FTC Proposed Behavioral Advertising Principles

As you may know, the Federal Trade Commission recently proposed self-regulatory principles for online behavioral advertising.

The American Advertising Federation supports self-regulation as the most effective way to protect consumers while insuring that innovation is not stifled in this dynamic and rapidly changing area. Unfortunately, we believe the FTC's principles have a number of serious flaws.

For example, in arguing for the implementation of the principles, the commission has not articulated any concerns that consumers are harmed by behavioral advertising. We do not believe the principles strike an appropriate balance between restrictions on the use of information and the benefits to consumers through the use of that information. And of course, true self-regulation is developed by the affected industries, not the government.

The AAF has joined with a number of industry allies to submit comments to the commission. In them we make a number of important points:

Any self-regulatory principles in this area should be careful not to unnecessarily limit the tremendous benefits that behavioral advertising provides to consumers.

  • The scope of activities should be limited to true "behavioral advertising" where information is collected across Web sites in order to predict consumer characteristics or preferences for purposes of online advertising.
  • The principles should not require choice in all instances for the collection of information, particularly information that doesn't personally identify consumers.
  • Data retention should be one component within the "reasonable security" principle.
  • A principle that allows flexibility based on circumstances in considering how notice and choice are best provided for changes in privacy practices should be adopted.
  • Existing legal and self-regulatory regimes with respect to sensitive information should apply to behavioral advertising.

The full comments are available here.

The FTC's proposed principles on online behavioral advertising are available here.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or questions.