Ad Groups Back Repeal of Near-Dead FCC Privacy Rules

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Credit: FCC
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It's no secret the advertising industry does not like the privacy rules established under former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, which would have limited ISP data sharing. Today six ad industry trade groups, which have been vocal critics of the rules, backed recent congressional resolutions aimed at repealing the FCC rules. The rules already have been on life support since new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Donald Trump, suspended them indefinitely before they went into effect.

"Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC's regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect," wrote The American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4A's), American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association), the Interactive Advertising Bureau and one of two large self-regulatory bodies for the digital ad industry, the Network Advertising Initiative, said in a statement today.

Republicans Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee each sponsored resolutions that would invalidate the FCC rule which, had it gone into effect as originally planned for earlier this month, would have blocked internet service providers from activities like using and sharing data on location and web browsing habits unless consumers explicitly opted in.

"My resolution is the first step toward restoring the FTC's light-touch, consumer-friendly approach. It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections," said Mr. Flake in a statement regarding his resolution to establish congressional disapproval of the rules under the Congressional Review Act.

"We wholeheartedly commend Senator Flake and Congressman Blackburn, and their Senate and House colleagues, for introducing resolutions of disapproval for the FCC's ill-considered move to create a new, costly, counterproductive, confusing and unnecessary regulatory regime around privacy for broadband providers," wrote the ad groups. "Our digital economy is the global leader, providing billions of dollars in ad-supported content and services to consumers, and the innovation and investment that have driven its success have rested on robust, consistent self-regulatory privacy standards backstopped by the Federal Trade Commission."

The Digital Advertising Alliance, the group led by the six ad trade groups that backed the new resolutions which operates the industry's self-regulatory Ad Choices program allowing consumer opt-outs from behavioral advertising, did not participate in the statement.