Two Words on Why the FTC’s Self-Reg Approach is Wrong: Financial Meltdown

It has been deregulation, including forms of self-regulation, which led to the current financial crisis.  Regulators and most policymakers looked the other way, while many from the investment community created a Ponzi scheme bigger than Bernie Madoff’s.  The online marketing of mortgages and loans played a role in the `borrow’ and `buy’ culture which contributed to the economic mess we are in.

It’s now more important than ever that online marketing, including the structure of data collection and privacy, be regulated.  Congress has to act to make sure consumers understand the loans and other financial products they are being offered interactively online.  The financial crisis, noted Google, is actually fostering the growth of online marketing (as consumers look for less expensive ways to shop).   As Google recently explained to advertisers, the “slowdown is actually accelerating the use of consumer online shopping for goods and services.”  The “mass market is now online,” they noted.

Consumers need to completely understand and fully control how data is collected and used when they seek financial services.  The behavioral targeting system involved with mortgage loan sales, we believe, is totally unknown to consumers (and sadly, regulators).  That’s why my group and others criticized last week’s FTC report.  It’s self-regulatory approach is based on a failed policy (from the people on both sides of the aisle who got us into this mess).  We can have both regulation/fair rules and make the commercial market prosper.  It’s time for the online ad industry to support a regulatory policy that will help make our financial future more secure.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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