This past month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing to consider online consumer privacy issues, particularly as it relates to the use of behavioral targeting by online advertisers. Currently, there are a number of legislative and regulatory proposals to address these issues. According to bill sponsors, these proposals attempt to find a balance between the protection of consumer privacy and the free flow of information and commerce on the Internet.
The BBB, through its National Advertising Review Council (NARC) is in the center of the debate offering reasonable self-regulatory alternatives to governmental involvement in advertising issues. Virtually all of the speakers at the hearing talked about the importance of retaining consumer trust in Internet commerce.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) expressed concern regarding, what he called, “the increasing opportunity to merge offline and online information to create highly-detailed consumer profiles. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz focused his remarks on a “Do Not Track” plan, which he said would build consumer trust and encourage business innovation.
John Montgomery, speaking for the Digital Advertising Alliance, discussed the advertising industry’s self-regulatory program. The program employs a clickable icon that appears over online advertisements, and allows consumers to both view the information being collected and opt-out of further collection. Mr. Montgomery noted ongoing efforts to build further industry support for the icon program. During the first panel, Chairman Leibowitz questioned whether such a solution goes far enough in giving meaningful choice to consumers, but he described the program as "promising."
As long-time champions of Trust in the Marketplace, the CBBB in cooperation with NARC will continue to work to find reasonable solutions to privacy issues and online behavioral advertising.