Statement of Jeff Chester, executive director, Center for Digital Democracy, Washington, D.C. www.democraticmedia.org
A new self-regulatory scheme designed to head-off meaningful consumer privacy rules by Congress and the Federal Trade Commission is to be released today, according to several reports.Â In addition, the Council of Better Business Bureaus has issued a RFP asking for technology solutions to bolster its online advertising self-regulatory approach.
These efforts are trying to place a flimsy band-aid over a gushing consumer data privacy wound.Â Disclosure and more opportunities to opt-out is an online ad industry copout. Interactive marketers have created a data collection monster.Â Whatâ€™s needed are Fair Information Principles for the digital age, enforced by regulators, which dramatically minimize how much data is collected, stored, sold and resold–and limit how it can be used.Â Â Instead we get fancy package relabeling fashioned by Madison Avenue.
Consumers face a bewildering, far-reaching, and complex system created by the online ad business that collects and harvests their informationâ€”including financial, health, and other personal detailsâ€”that is non-transparent and unaccountable.Â These new self-regulatory initiatives are disingenuous, because they donâ€™t address the real problem:Â that through a range of largely stealth online marketing techniques, digital media has been designed to ensure that consumers provide reams of their personal data.
As the FTC holds its second privacy hearing this Thursday, and as the House Commerce Committee finalizes its proposed legislation, policymakers must ask themselves:Â how can we do a better job protecting consumers–instead of enabling the same kind of self-regulatory approach that helped bring our economy to the brink of disaster.Â Consumers and lawmakers should especially be concerned that the approach backed by Truste and Future of Privacy Forum will permit monopolistic broadband Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast and AT&T,Â to gather even more personal information on their subscribers.