A recently formed advertising group, Privacy For America, has released a new set of guidelines to help shape future legislation regarding consumer data collection, as the industry looks to have some say in the inevitable regulations that are coming out of Congress and states like California.
On Tuesday, Privacy For America issued a 41-page set of principles that it called a “framework” for data and privacy legislation. The organization is comprised of the most prominent advertising industry trade groups: American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Digital Advertising Alliance, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Network Advertising Initiative.
“What we came up with is a new model, a new framework, a new approach,” says Chris Oswald, ANA’s SVP of government relations. “This gets away from the model that places the burden of protection of one’s privacy on the consumer. It lifts that burden off the consumer to put it back on the companies that are best able to protect people’s individual privacy.”
Not everyone thinks Privacy For America’s “framework” represents a dramatic advancement in the debate around privacy. Ana Milicevic, principal and co-founder of Sparrow Advisers, a digital consulting firm, noted how the group didn’t mention advertising until halfway through its plan. Also absent was any mention of how companies collect data offline, Milicevic says.
“This is great, we should be talking more about data rights, but what does this framework have to do with advertising,” Milicevic says, noting that the first discussion of advertising came on page 33 of the report. “It’s seemingly addressing only one portion of the the industry. Almost as if it’s just digital. It doesn’t call out offline data gathering that really is the bread and butter of the direct marketing industry, which is significantly more egregious.”
Privacy For America was constituted this year as a way for the industry to advance policies its members could support while U.S. lawmakers and regulators sought to rewrite rules for collecting online data. The California Consumer Privacy Act will take effect, representing the most comprehensive law that will oversee how internet companies and brands collect personal information online. U.S. lawmakers are considering similar legislations nationwide, and the advertising industry trade groups are concerned about the possibility of multiples states enacting their own laws that would create a hodgepodge of regulatory hoops, instead of one national standard.
Privacy For America is calling for more rigorous enforcement through the Federal Trade Commission, nationally uniform laws that apply to all states, and the group opposes the proliferation of online notifications that could confuse consumers. Many of the privacy laws, like the one in California and EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, have rules that force websites to hit visitors with privacy notices every time they return. It’s a hassle Privacy For America wants to avoid by regulating what companies do with data, not regulating whether consumers hit an “I agree” button.
“This is a wholesale new way of looking at how to do data privacy and protection in a way that protects the individual and yet is still workable for business,” Oswald says.
The Digital Advertising Alliance, a member of Privacy For America, recently introduced its own new privacy protection plans. Last week, the group released tools to help advertisers comply with California’s privacy law. All the increased activity form the industry trade organizations come just as the Senate is about to hold hearings on consumer privacy on Wednesday, when the commerce, science and transportation subcommittee will debate legislative proposals.
"There are a lot of these cross-industry initiatives and working groups around at the moment, many will run out of steam and fail but this is one I really hope sticks and achieves its aim,” said Tom Denford, CEO of ID Comms, the media and advertising management consultant, in an e-mail. “The Privacy for America policy framework creates a collective responsibility for the industry to keep the end-user in mind when making decisions about marketing and data policy.”
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a publishing trade group, says he supports steps by the advertising industry to advance stricter privacy protections. However, any new regulations needs to address online tracking of the kind that is conducted by Facebook and Google, the most powerful companies in digital advertising.
“Browser companies, state governments and Europe are rolling out initiatives to give consumers the ability to stop web wide tracking by tech giants, in particular Google and Facebook who mine every aspect of our digital and even offline activities more and more for their unprecedented profits,” Kint said in an e-mail statement. “Any new technology or law which truly accomplishes this goal which aligns with consumer expectations is a positive step forward.”