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Trade Groups Release New Online Privacy Guidelines

Furthering self-regulation principles, guidelines tout greater transparency in tracking.

In advance of increasing federal scrutiny over consumer privacy rights online, five marketing trade associations last week announced their partnership in the release of a set of "privacy principles."

The guidelines are couched in the associations' position of self-regulation by industry, and guide publishers and marketers on the process of transparently educating users on how their information is being tracked online.

Indeed, the phrases "self-regulatory" or "self-regulation" are repeated a dozen times throughout the release—highlighting the associations' position on the matter and concern over greater regulation handed down from the FTC.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus collaborated on drafting the guidelines.

"This historic collaboration represents businesses and trade associations working together to advance the public interest," said Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the IAB in a statement. "Although consumers have registered few if any complaints about Internet privacy, surveys show they are concerned about their privacy. We are acting early and aggressively on their concerns, to reinforce their trust in this vital medium that contributes so significantly to the U.S. economy."

That last part of Rothenberg's statement is important to note in the sense that according to a study commissioned by the IAB, the ad-supported Internet—which the associations believe will be severely hampered if regulation is turned over to the government—accounts for 2.1 percent, or $300 billion, of the U.S. GDP.

The guidelines, which can be viewed in full here, include the following seven principles:

• The Education Principle calls for organizations to participate in efforts to educate individuals and businesses about online behavioral advertising. To this end, the digital media industry intends, in a major campaign that is expected to exceed 500 million online advertising impressions, to educate consumers about online behavioral advertising, the benefits of these practices and the means to exercise choice, over the next 18 months.

• The Transparency Principle calls for clearer and easily accessible disclosures to consumers about data collection and use practices associated with online behavioral advertising. It will result in new, enhanced notice on the page where data is collected through links embedded in or around advertisements, or on the Web page itself.

• The Consumer Control Principle provides consumers with an expanded ability to choose whether data is collected and used for online behavioral advertising purposes. This choice will be available through a link from the notice provided on the Web page where data is collected.

• The Consumer Control Principle requires “service providers”, a term that includes Internet access service providers and providers of desktop applications software such as Web browser “tool bars” to obtain the consent of users beforeengaging in online behavioral advertising, and take steps to de-identify the data used for such purposes.

• The Data Security Principle calls for organizations to provide reasonable security for, and limited retention of data, collected and used for online behavioral advertising purposes.

• The Material Changes Principle calls on organizations to obtain consent for any material change to their online behavioral advertising data collection and use policies and practices to data collected prior to such change.

• The Sensitive Data Principle recognizes that data collected from children and used for online behavioral advertising merits heightened protection, and requires parental consent for behavioral advertising to consumers known to be under 13 on child-directed Web sites. This Principle also provides heightened protections to certain health and financial data when attributable to a specific individual.

• The Accountability Principle calls for development of programs to further advance these Principles, including programs to monitor and report instances of uncorrected non-compliance with these Principles to appropriate government agencies. The CBBB and DMA have been asked and agreed to work cooperatively to establish accountability mechanisms under the Principles.


Related Link:

Behavioral Targeting: Arguing for Self-Regulation

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