Ad Groups Tell FCC That Privacy Self-Regulation Works, Data Marketing Creates Jobs

The Ad-Supported Web Needs Free Data Flow, Trade Groups Say

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The ad industry doesn't need proposed new Federal Communications Commission privacy regulations because self-regulation suffices, according to the advertising industry's largest trade organizations.

"Enforceable, voluntary self-regulatory codes remain best suited to honor consumer privacy preferences while allowing legitimate data practices to flourish," the groups said in a 9-page comment sent to the FCC May 27.

They also suggested that data collection and sharing benefits the economy and creates jobs, citing a study that said data-driven marketing "added $202 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy and fueled more than 966,000 jobs in 2014."

The commission's definition of personally-identifiable information is too broad, they added.

The FCC proposal focuses on three main components: choice, transparency and security. It calls on ISPs to give consumers control over what personal information is used and shared, provide a clear view of how information is used and protect how consumer data is stored. It would also require broadband providers to allow customers to opt out from use of their data for marketing purposes, and require opt-in for other data uses and sharing.

It isn't clear exactly how the proposed rules would directly affect digital advertisers, but the complex and intermingled digital ad ecosystem relies on a relatively free flow of consumer data, sparking concern that new regulations could siphon off some information used by online advertisers.

The groups that responded together on May 27 are the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, the Electronic Retailing Association, the Electronic Transactions Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the National Business Coalition on E-Commerce and Privacy and the Network Advertising Initiative.

"The FCC's attempt to regulate this area is an overreach of its authority," they said in their comment, which points to the most widely-adopted industry-led online ad privacy program, the Digital Advertising Alliance's Ad Choices, as an example of appropriate self-regulation for online consumer privacy.

The Digital Advertising Alliance took a similar stance against the FCC proposal in a separate comment, although the group's membership includes several of the same associations that filed the collective response: the 4A's, the AAF, the ANA, the DMA, the IAB, the NAI and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

"Subjecting data flows and the Internet ecosystem generally to government enforcement would risk losing the benefits that consumers seek and enjoy from the ad-supported Internet," the DAA said in its letter to the FCC.