Google, Time Warner, Washington Post, Verizon, Canoe Ventures [Comcast] Funding Online Ad Lobby’s Campaign Against Consumer Privacy Safeguards

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is a lobbying group that is working to oppose federal (or state) legislation and regulation that would protect consumer privacy online.  It recently led the lobbying campaign that removed from the new financial reform bill a key provision that would have enabled the FTC to better protect consumers.  What companies are helping fund the IAB’s Orwellian named “Consumer Protection and Education Campaign” battling consumer and privacy groups?  Here’s a list of the financial donors, who have ponied up about $500k so far.  Other companies are contributing free online ad space for the IAB’s campaign–1 billion impressions worth. The donors are:
Canoe Ventures
CPX Interactive
Feeva Technology
IM Services Group
Meredith Interactive
Time Warner
Traffic Marketplace
Washington Post

Future of Privacy Forum: Funded by Facebook and other online data companies [Need to disclose when discussing social networks and privacy department]

In an August report, the Future of Privacy Forum told its supports that [our bold]: “We welcome Bering Media as a new sponsor of FPF… Thanks to our existing sponsors for their on-going  support: Adobe, AOL, AT&T, The Better Advertising Project, BlueKai,  Deloitte, eBay, Facebook, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, The  Nielsen Company, Qualcomm, TRUSTe, Verizon and Yahoo.”

When the Forum was launched, we feared that its role was to serve as a kind of quasi-research organization that sanctioned the online data collection status quo. So far it has failed (like most in the online ad industry), in our opinion, to provide an accurate analysis of the online data collection landscape–which would, of course, alienate its corporate backers.  But whenever the Forum speaks to the press (as it recently did on Facebook Places) or policymakers–it must first identify these financial connections.

PS:  Forum co-founder and corporate attorney Chris Wolf identifies how his group isn’t really focused on privacy from a public interest and democracy perspective.  In his Hogan Lovells law firm blog he writes that the Future of Privacy Forum is “focused on advancing consumer privacy in ways that are business practical.”   Business Practical!   That means created by lobbyists for their special interests.

Online Ad Lobby Raising $1 Million to Help Fight Against Privacy Safeguards

The Interactive Ad Bureau [Google, CBS, Comcast, NBC, Facebook, Fox, Microsoft, BlogHer and many others] is fundraising to “undertake additional coordinated advocacy at the Federal and state level. IAB is nearly half-way to our goal of raising $1 million in cash…”  Funds will be used to support a campaign that includes “our ongoing advocacy efforts to combat legislation and regulation that could damage the interactive advertising industry.”  IAB calls this its “Consumer Protection and Education Campaign,” because it also includes a goal of a billion online ads (to be donated by marketers) used to “support consumer and business understanding and appreciation of the interactive advertising industry.”

We are sure that there will be many–such as the growing interest of the news media in the issuethat will follow this special interest money–especially as the Congress and FTC focus on protecting consumers online.

Ad Lobby Research Says Vast Majority of Online Ads Involve Behavioral Profiling & Targeting

The online ad industry lobbying group–the Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB]–has revealed results from its own research that show the widespread use of behavioral targeting.  In a post on its criticisms of privacy legislation introduced by Chairman Bobby Rush, the IAB explains that:

“In an IAB survey of ad agencies conducted earlier this year, we found that 80% or more of digital advertising campaigns were touched by behavioral targeting in some way.

That means the majority of what consumers do online–including when they deal with sensitive transactions involving their finance, health or other family matters–are being closely tracked and profiled.  In addition, the IAB attacks the important civil rights provisions in both the Boucher/Stearns and Rush bills.  That provision would ensure that data collection about a consumers racial, ethnic or sexual orientation would be better under the control of the individual.   You would think that the IAB leadership, including Google, NBC, CBS, and Disney, would support a policy that would restrict the potential use of online racial profiling.  But the IAB claims these provisions protecting multicultural and other consumers “could constrain multicultural marketing and media…These types of services provide great benefits to their audiences and the proposed restrictions would actually harm the very group of people they seek to protect.”  That’s an irresponsible position.  We should be able to protect civil rights and promote diverse online publishing.
The IAB’s claims that behavioral targeting is anonymous doesn’t hold up to the facts, as well.  The time for action by both the FTC and Congress has arrived.

Teens and Online Privacy: Empowering Adolescents to Control How Online Marketers Can Stealithily Target Them and Collect Data

Some commentators–and groups funded by online marketers that target teens–are worried that proposals to the FTC and Congress that adolescent privacy be protected will somehow create a system that requires forms of age verification online.  The coalition of leading consumer, child advocacy, health and privacy organizations filing comments at the FTC last week aren’t calling for the parental permission paradigm used by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act [COPPA] be extended to teens.  But there are many online commercial services specifically targeting adolescents–that’s their target market.  It’s those sites and services specifically focused on adolescents that we want to have better privacy safeguards.   We want those sites to be governed by an opt-in regime that gives teen users meaningful control of how their information is collected and utilized.  Those sites should be required to engage in the Fair Information Principles known as  “data use minimization.”  Commercial sites targeting adolescents should make its data collection practices fully transparent and under the control by the teen (including a truly accessible privacy policy).  In another words, a privacy safeguard regime that really should be available for everyone.  Teens are ‘ground zero’ for much of digital marketing–for examples see our site: [especially the update section].  If you look at the reports on that site, you will see that the most recent scholarly thinking is that brain development in adolescents occurs much later than what was once thought.  They don’t have the ability to effectively understand the intent of highly sophisticated interactive marketing and the corresponding data collection which underlies contemporary digital advertising. That’s why empowering them so they can protect their privacy strengthens their rights.

Online Ad Lobby and Chamber Celebrate Victory over Consumer Protection & FTC

Yesterday, the online ad lobby [IAB, ANA, DMA]–working with Chamber of Commerce–scored a major political victory by forcing the Financial reform bill conference committee to drop proposed provisions that would have strengthened the FTC.  Under the House bill, the FTC would have been given the same kind of regulatory authority most federal agencies have [APA rulemaking].  Marketers and advertisers are celebrating their win, because it keeps the FTC on a weakened and short political leash.  While consumer protection is significantly expanded because of the CFPB and new financial rules, the FTC is to remain largely hamstrung.  The online marketing and advertising lobby [including ANA, DMA–see below] were afraid that the newly invigorated FTC under Pres. Obama would require the industry to protect privacy online and also become more accountable to consumers engaged in e-commerce.   I heard IAB and Chamber are dancing in the streets! Congressmen Barney Frank, Henry Waxman and Sen. Rockefeller deserve praise for working hard to protect consumers, including their proposal on the FTC.

Here’s what two of the ad groups placed on their sites about the FTC issue:

Progress on FTC Enforcement Provisions in Wall Street Reform Conference

June 23, 2010

The marketing and media community has made substantial progress on defeating the broad expansion of FTC powers that is included in the House version of the Wall Street reform bill.  But we still need your assistance to keep these provisions out of the final bill.

Yesterday the Senate conferees presented an offer on the bill that rejected the new FTC powers that are in the House version.  Chairman Dodd indicated that while he may support changes in the Magnuson Moss rulemaking process, there is no Senate provision and these issues are too complex and important to be resolved in the context of the Wall Street reform bill.  Conferees hope to finish the conference this week so the final bill can be cleared for the President’s signature next month.

The House conferees may still continue to push for these provisions, so it is very important that marketers contact the Senate conferees to express our appreciation for their support and to urge them to remain strongly opposed to these new powers for the FTC in this bill.  Contact information for the Senate conferees is located here and our letter to Senate conferees is available here.  Please let the Senators know if you have plants or operations in their states.

ANA took part in a very important meeting yesterday with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller on these issues.  We argued that these issues are very important to the entire marketing community and deserve careful consideration outside of the context of the Wall Street reform bill.  The Chairman strongly indicated that he will continue to push for changes in the Magnuson Moss rulemaking procedures this year.

If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Dan Jaffe ( or Keith Scarborough ( in ANA’s Washington, DC office at (202) 296-1883.

DMA Asks Financial Reform Conferees to Keep FTC Expansion Out of ‘Restoring American Financial Stability Act’

June 10, 2010 — The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) today was joined by 47 other trade associations and business coalitions in sending a letter to each of the conferees on H.R. 4173, the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act” (RAFSA), urging them to keep language that would dramatically expand the powers of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) out of the final bill.

As the House and Senate conferees work to reconcile their versions of the financial regulatory legislation, the associations — which represent hundreds of thousands of US companies from a wide array of industry segments — expressed strong opposition to provisions in the House version of the bill that would expand the FTC’s rulemaking and enforcement authority over virtually every sector of the American economy.

“The balance struck in the Senate bill is the right one,” said Linda Woolley, DMA’s executive vice president, government affairs.  “That bill makes the most sense in the context of financial reform legislation, maintaining the FTC’s existing jurisdiction without expanding its rulemaking and enforcement authority over industries and sectors that had nothing to do with the financial crisis.  Issues of FTC expansion deserve their own due consideration and debate in the more appropriate context of an FTC reauthorization, as has been done in the past.”

DMA and the other associations strongly believe that granting the FTC broad new authority is not a necessary or relevant response to the causes of the recent recession and, therefore, asked the conferees to oppose the inclusion of any provisions that would expand FTC authority, rather than making changes to the Commission that would have a fundamental impact on the entire business community and the broader American economy.

For more information please visit

Google to Host Online Ad Lobby as it Campaigns Against Privacy bill

Google is going to help the interactive ad lobby in its campaign to undermine privacy legislation.  The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) plans a DC lobbying blitz on June 14-15, bringing in its cadre of small publishers.   As the IAB explains, “our day of advocacy gets underway as you divide up into teams for individual meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. Each team will be assigned a “chaperone” to help you make your way around the Hill, as well as answer any questions you might have.”

The message the IAB reps will make will undoubtedly be that the Internet way of life as we know it will end if Rep. Boucher’s proposal–or most any other bill protecting privacy–is enacted.  Sort of the Internet meets the film 2012:  all that will be left, if the data stops flowing for targeting, will be a handful of digital survivors.  Google, which serves on the executive committee of the IAB board [along with Microsoft, NBCU, Disney, CBS], plays a key role in the lobbying plans.  The small publisher/lobbyists are to be “guests of honor at a special networking reception and dinner at the Google offices in Washington, D.C.”  Presumably, at the “Cocktail Reception & Dinner – Courtesy of Google,” the troops will be rallied to the `defeat the privacy bill’ cause.  A guest speaker at Google HQ for the event is the IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg.

I know Google uses its facilities to host many meetings;  I have had lunch there and a dinner once at events where Google was discussing its data collection practices.  But Google claims to want to see meaningful national privacy legislation.  Yet they are aiding and abetting the anti-online privacy lobby (which is also leading the effort to undermine the FTC’s role in consumer protection).  The irony here is that Google appears to have successfully convinced Mr. Boucher that its ad preference manager system should be the basis for a safe harbor in the bill.  But Google likely wants to facilitate weakening even Mr. Boucher’s proposal–hence the dinner, drinks and cheer leading that will no doubt be heard across to Capital Hill next month.

Interactive Ad lobby Gives $ to Lawmakers to head-off consumer privacy safeguards….The Google connection

The ever intrepid reporter Kate Kaye from Clickz has reported the following [excerpt]:

The Interactive Advertising Bureau is putting its PAC money where its mouth is – again. As part of its ongoing efforts to influence key lawmakers, the lobbying arm of the online ad industry’s largest membership organization gave Congressman John Dingell, an influential member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, $1,000 last month. Among the messages the IAB hopes to get across to legislators: behavioral targeting is so pervasive, even their own election campaigns probably use it….

Other recent fundraising events for the congressman include an annual pheasant shoot held in Boonsboro, MD.

“It doesn’t hurt that Google also has a major office in his congressional district,” added Zaneis. Dingell represents Michigan’s 15th district, home to Google’s Ann Arbor office, which coincidentally houses Google’s political ad sales team…The IAB PAC contributed to Boucher’s reelection campaign in 2009, and to other House Internet Subcommittee members including Mike Rogers and John Shimkus.

IAB Lobby Gives to Lawmaker to Influence Behavioral Ad Policy.  Kate Kaye, ClickZ, Apr 22, 2010

Microsoft breaks from IAB Lobby and supports a stronger FTC Consumer Protection Role

I asked both Google and Microsoft their position on proposed legislation that would enable the FTC to protect consumers.  Microsoft, to their credit, has taken a stand, even if it has a caveat.  Here’s what they wrote to me:

“…Microsoft has supported the expansion of FTC authority, including in our longtime support for comprehensive federal privacy legislation and in a recent legislative proposal on protecting consumers related to cloud computing, where we said that the FTC should play a key role.  In the current environment, there ought to be better alternatives to guide the marketplace than de facto rulemaking through enforcement activity.

It is our view that there is merit to having FTC rulemaking authority mirror that of other agencies — we favor increased certainty and the ability for comment on proposed rules that will impact our industry.  At the same time, the reasons the FTC’s existing mechanisms were put in place (as articulated in the industry letter you cite) should not be ignored.  Perhaps there is room for a balanced approach.”

Online Advertisers Side with Kids Junk Food Marketers: Opposing Consumer Protection by FTC, Even to Address Childhood Obesity Epidemic

The Interactive Ad Bureau [whose board members include Google, Fox, NBC, Comcast] is working with the marketing and data collection lobby to oppose proposed Obama Administration legislation that would enable the FTC to protect consumers.  It’s clear from the comments below in Reuters, that the IAB is siding with those that don’t want to really address the youth obesity crisis.  If the FTC is allowed to conduct the same rulemaking procedures that the FCC and other agencies already do, it might actually be able to better protect consumers, including kids.  Shame on the IAB and its lobbyist colleagues for being on the side of those against the public health of our nation’s children.  By preventing the FTC to engage in consumer protection, the IAB, ANA and others are supporting the same deregulatory scheme which led to the current financial disaster for so many Americans and our economy.  Here’s the Reuters excerpt:

“A more powerful FTC could boost its oversight of advertising of sugary and salty snacks to children, the online collection of personal data by advertisers and green advertising, said Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers…This (financial reform/CFPA bill) is a fast moving train,” said Zaneis. “The FTC provisions that are likely to be added onto the CFPA bill really are industry’s no. 1 legislative priority.”