Nuts & Bolts - Eye on Privacy: New ‘Publishers’ and New Self-Regulation

In these harsh times, staying afloat and keeping your privacy/security programs shipshape are not givens. So, the privacy professional needs to be even more part of the conversation about strategy. This is true because many of the new data-driven opportunities in the market are occurring inside a self-regulatory environment that is evolving.

The Federal Trade Commission recently released self-regulatory guidelines on online behavioral advertising. Here are some of the highlights of what the FTC said marketers should abide by:

• Transparency and Consumer Control: Every site that collects data for behavioral advertising should provide a clear, concise, consumer-friendly and prominent statement. This statement should inform consumers that data is being collected for use in providing them with advertising about products and services tailored to their interests, and that consumers have a choice about whether their information is collected for behavioral advertising. Lastly, the FTC encouraged marketers to develop alternative methods—not necessarily just Web site-based policy statements—for providing disclosure and choice.

• Reasonable Security and Limited Data Retention for Consumer Data: Any behavioral advertising data should be afforded reasonable security based on the sensitivity of the data, nature of a company’s business operations, the particular risks a company faces and reasonable available protections.

• Affirmative Express Consent for Material Changes to Existing Privacy Promises: The FTC states that affirmative express consent is required for material changes to existing privacy promises. What this means is a company must maintain its promises pertaining to consumer data even if the company later changes its policies. The affirmative express consent should be obtained from consumers before using previously collected data in a manner materially different from the promises made at the time of collection.

• Affirmative Express Consent to (or Prohibition Against) Using Sensitive Data for Behavioral Advertising: While the FTC expressed support for developing standards that define the term “sensitive data,” the agency did state that the principle of affirmative express consent be applied to any use of sensitive data for behavioral advertising. Alternately, the commission states such data be prohibited from behavioral advertising uses.

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  • http://Jim Jim

    Excellent article — these are important things for privacy professionals to think about.<br />
    <br />
    I would also submit that, while site-by-site policies and choices are the foundation, the marketing industry must also embrace aggregated systems that provide truly meaningful choices for consumers. For example, our online wizard at allows consumers to opt out of nearly 50 tracking networks with a single click. Unfortunately, some networks (including some of the big ones) don’t make it easy to include their opt-outs in our system, which makes me wonder if folks really "get it." It’s time to recognize that big regulation is on the way unless consumers are given not just full disclosure, but truly meaningful and EASY options.