NEWS8 September 2009

FCC urged to consider need for tougher online privacy protections

Government North America Privacy

US— The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is being urged to consider whether there is a need for additional consumer privacy protections in light of public concern over online behavioural targeting.

The call came from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a submission to the FCC, which is developing a national ‘Broadband Plan’.

“A significant number of consumers appear to be particularly concerned about the tracking of their online activities for the purposes of, for example, delivering targeted advertisements,” said the FTC. “It appears consumers generally maintain these concerns even where the data collected is not personally identifiable.”

The FTC noted behavioural advertising “may benefit consumers” by providing them with more relevant content. However, it said, the technologies that enable such targeting raise “substantial privacy concerns”.

Earlier this year the FTC published a set of principles for industry self-regulation of online behavioural targeting, while advertising bodies set out a self-regulatory programme this summer to better educate web users about what data is collected about their online activities, how it is gathered and used, and to make it easier for them to opt out of systems that serve advertising to them based on their browsing histories.

It also requires internet service providers to obtain prior consent from their customers before engaging in online behavioural advertising.

Privacy groups, meanwhile, have put their own ideas before Congress.