Direct marketers need to fully embrace self-regulation of online behavioral targeting now before federal rules come about that so tightly protect consumer privacy that permitted behavioral targeting will look a lot different than it does today.
So says attorney D. Reed Freeman Jr., who is one of many who are paying close attention to Federal Trade Commission discussions dubbed "Exploring Privacy: A Roundtable Series." On Dec. 7, when the first of three day-long public events took place in Washington, D.C., behavioral targeting proponents, opponents and FTC representatives gathered for a panel discussion specifically meant to address the practice.
"Right now, behavioral advertising is not directly regulated but is subject to broad consumer protection laws written decades ago," says Freeman, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of law firm Morrison & Foerster. Freeman, who also is on the board of directors of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, specializes in consumer protection law.
"This time next year, there will be a direct regulatory regime for online behavioral advertising. And marketers can expect that, and they should hope for and work towards that regime being the [industry self-regulation] proposed and being rolled out by the [Direct Marketing Association] and the [Interactive Advertising Bureau] and others," he continues, referring to the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising.
The Debate Status
"The debate is constructive, and the dialogue is ongoing," according to a Dec. 16 e-mailed response from Peder Magee, an FTC staff attorney who co-moderated the Dec. 7 panel. "The stakeholders have the opportunity to weigh in, and are learning a lot by doing so. But because there are two more roundtables still to come, it would be premature to try to gauge the direction in which the debate seems to be headed."
(The next meeting is slated for Jan. 28 in Berkeley, Calif., and according to Freeman's firm, the last roundtable is slated for March 17, back in the nation's capital.)