In the US, an ad association President has told a Senate committee web companies must be allowed to collect basic visitor data; while the FCC has proposed new Do Not Call rules affecting autodiallers; and Canada’s privacy commission has clarified its support for opt-out based protection.
Association of National Advertisers CEO and President Bob Liodice told the US Senate Commerce Committee
on Thursday that even when users choose to opt out of online tracking, companies should still be allowed to collect information about their behavior for aggregated use and fraud prevention, according to www.mediapost.com
Liodice joined other industry figures to testify at the hearing, entitled ‘The Need for Privacy Protections: Is Self-Regulation Adequate?’ arguing that the current self-regulatory program does provide adequate protection. In written testimony, Liodice asserted that ‘Market research and product development actively rely on consumer data, not to market directly back to consumers, but to gain broad insight about consumers’ collective preferences and needs so that businesses can better serve their customers’.
Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) questioned possible abuse under such categories, which he said were broad enough to ‘encompass almost anything.’ Liodice argued that ‘The Internet operates on some collection of data’ and criticised Microsoft’s recent surprise decision to set do-not-track as the default option in the next version of Internet Explorer, which he considers inconsistent with the consensus on privacy standards to date and says will ‘profoundly adversely impact the broad array of advertising-supported services’ that consumers currently use.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said post-hearing that he aims for ‘an easy, persistent opt out on third-party tracking that limits collection with a few exceptions, such as security’, and to create a balance between ‘choice and control for consumers, and a continuing vibrant internet ecosystem for businesses’.
Meanwhile the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has proposed new laws which would require companies using autodiallers
to filter out numbers from a new do-not-call registry of emergency service provider numbers. The USA’s Marketing Research Association (MRA) has expressed its doubts about the burden this would place on research companies, even though telephone surveys already have to comply with a similar regulation in the country’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Howard Fienberg, the MRA’s Director of Government Affairs, said in a blog that the rules would have ‘a major impact on telephone survey research’ and believes the rules ‘must be carefully crafted’
Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC
) also issued a recent statement of its views on Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA), accepting a carefully defined opt-out as generally sufficient.
The June 6th statement clarifies that data collected for OBA will be treated as personal information and thus subject to the country’s PIPEDA rules, due to the power of the analytics available and the subsequent ‘serious possibility of identifying affected individuals’.
However, the OPC continues, ‘given that users appear to expect information on the Internet to be free and that web sites generally require advertising to make money, the OPC will generally consider OBA to be a reasonable purpose for the collection of information under PIPEDA’. It goes on to suggest limitations on the types of information collected and insist that ‘there must be meaningful consent’. The latter is defined as being satisfied by an opt-out option, provided is it easy to do ‘at or before the time information is collected’; immediate and persistent in its effect; information is limited to non-sensitive information; and is ‘destroyed as soon as possible or de-identified’.
The OPC specifically excludes OBA techniques such as ‘zombie cookies’ and device fingerprinting, and the placement of tracking technologies on web sites that are targeted at children.