Industry Groups Say They Were Blindsided by FCC Privacy Change

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They fought them this spring, and now a coalition of ad industry groups are fighting the recently updated privacy rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission again. The ANA, 4A's and other trade groups called an update to the proposed FCC rules that would require "opt-in" consent from consumers when ISPs use or share web behavior and app usage data "an unprecedented step."

"This counterproductive proposal has been introduced late in the Commission's process, with little opportunity for public review and comment," stated the coalition in a letter sent today to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch, implying that the industry was blindsided by changes to the original proposal that broaden the industry standard definition of sensitive data to include geolocation data, web browsing behavior and app usage behavior.

"There is no record of consumer harm to justify treating web viewing and application use history as sensitive or for it to be subject to opt-in consent," continued the missive, which claimed that making the use of such data by ISPs subject to opt-in approval from consumers would "seriously inhibit" the developing broadband marketplace. For ad targeting and other purposes, companies have come to rely on the types of data the rules would deem sensitive if passed when they are up for a vote at the end of the month.

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 and the Network Advertising Initiative also commented on the original rule proposal in May. At the time they argued the industry-led online ad privacy program, the Digital Advertising Alliance's Ad Choices, is all that is needed to protect online consumer privacy. The groups were joined in today's complaint by the National Business Coalition on E-Commerce and Privacy.

In today's letter, the coalition complained that because the new definition of sensitive data was only just revealed last week, "This process is insufficient in light of the significant impact and unprecedented nature of the proposed approach to regulating online data."