The Network Advertising Initiative’s (NAI) real role is to protect the ability of its members (Google, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.) to collect huge amounts of profiling and targeting data from each of us. NAI claims it’s promoting self-regulation on data privacy through its principles and guidelines. But NAI has long been a toothless group, and is basically a public relations vehicle helping to cover the data crime and more-than-misdemeanors of the industry.
So it’s not surprising that last week, the NAI announced that while it supported an “opt-in” for the kind of behavioral targeting planned by the phone and cable companies, it didn’t believe such a safeguard was required for its data-collected membership. In a statement, NAI Executive Director Trevor Hughes said that his group “believes that opt-out continues to be an appropriate choice mechanism for traditional web-based behavioral advertising and this is part of our sliding scale framework.” That’s the political position taken, of course, by his members. They are the biggest behavioral targeters on the planet.
The NAI is a weak group which reflects the cynical view of the online ad industry.Â NAI members hope that they can fool policymakers into believing consumer privacy can be safeguarded by the data wolves running the privacy hen house. The battle lines for the next Congress, the FTC and FCC are being drawn. Opt-out is a feckless approach to digital ad privacy. Responsible companies should be in the lead calling for meaningful opt-in. Note to NAI members:Â Deregulation and industry self-governance–how shall I put it–doesn’t seem to have worked that well so far!