To help undermine the impact of the forthcoming FTC proposal to protect consumer privacy, a coalition of online ad lobby groups will unveil yet another self-regulation plan.Â According to Mediapost, online consumers will soon see “[I]cons to signify behavioral advertising — or serving ads based on people’s Web activity.”Â Since 1999, online ad groups have rolled out self-regulatory regimes promising to protect consumers online.Â Each has failed to do so.Â Â This new effort involves the very same groups and companies that offered self-regulatory promises in the past.Â Â For example, see the World Privacy Forum’s report on the failure of the Network Advertising Initiative’s self-reg schemes; that group is part of the new effort, btw.
This new effort is seriously flawed–and before marketers and advertisers adopt it, it must be independently evaluated by consumer groups, independent academics, and the FTC.Â We believe that the system will fail to protect consumers–because it will not candidly inform them about how the data is collected and used.Â Meanwhile, in a revealing flip-flip, the IAB’s UK counterpart deep-sixed its just released safeguard on retargeting.Â According to a new report, “[O]nline advertising trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has withdrawn a code of practice which recommended that behavioural advertising retargeting cookies should expire after 48 hours. The IAB’s Affiliate Marketing Council (AMC) published the code last week. It applied to the practice of ‘retargeting’ web users who had visited a site with ads for that site on other people’s websites, using cookies to track their movements and activities…That code has been withdrawn and will be reworked after further industry consultation, though, the IAB said. The code has disappeared from the IAB’s website.”
Consumers and citizens require real safeguards governed by law and regulation–not flimsy digital promises designed to sanction ever-expanding data collection practices.