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Summary:

The online ad industry dodged a bullet when the Federal Trade Commission proposed that internet marketers and sites self-police instead of i…

The online ad industry dodged a bullet when the Federal Trade Commission proposed that internet marketers and sites self-police instead of imposing its own rules, as had been feared. Both the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Network Advertising Initiative are working on guidelines designed to obviate the need for government interference in online advertising.

I spoke with Mike Zaneis Friday, the IAB’s VP for public policy, the day after his 15-member working group held its sixth meeting to discuss the draft on privacy standards. He hopes to submit the guidelines to the FTC on Feb. 22. The IAB’s task force made up of representatives of AOL (NYSE: TWX), MSN, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) as well as ad networks and web publishers. It formed in September, before the FTC held its town hall meeting with advertisers at the end of October. Zaneis described a three-step process, starting with agreement on broad privacy principles followed by deciding how to apply those principles. The third part will cover possible compliance measures, which could range from audits and inspections to seal of approval similar to what’s offered by the Better Business Bureau.

Meanwhile. the NAI, an online marketing organization whose members also include AOL and Yahoo, is focusing strictly on revising its behavioral targeting standards, ClickZ reports. The group is aiming to complete and submit its revision to the FTC within the next six months. At the moment, the NAI is soliciting members’ views. It’s also considering expanding its ranks — Google (NSDQ: GOOG) recently asked to join and its membership is pending.

More from my interview with Zaneis after the jump.

A broader scope: The IAB specifically intended to concentrate on privacy as a broader issue than just on the practice of behavioral targeting, Zaneis said. “There’s several reasons for going beyond behavioral targeting. For one thing, what is behavioral targeting? It

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  1. It’s clear that the IAB is incapable of developing a policy that will protect consumers. Anyone who understands the contemporary dimensions of the interactive marketing industry–and has the public welfare in mind–should recognize what is required. The IAB will not be taken seriously if it can’t deliver the truth (it’s so far failed to protect the public from troubling online lead generation practices, for example. See our November 1, 2007 FTC filing). Yahoo!, Microsoft, Time Warner and others on the committee should lead–and not follow–advice from the IAB that will lead to prolonged political conflict–in Europe, in Congress, at the FTC and FCC, and with the incoming Administration.

    Real governmental rules are required–including measures that effectively protect every consumer and also address vulnerable groups and sensitive marketing issues.

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  2. I assume Mr. Chester speaks for the 60% of U.S. internet users who "are not worried about how much information is available about them online" (1), just as he spoke for the 91% of Americans who believe the war in Iraq, health care and other economic and foreign policy issues should be top priorities in Washington in declaring at the FTC's November conference on behavioral targeting that "the future of our democracy and democracies everywhere" depends on how Washington addresses behavioral targeting (2).

    However, after Mr. Chester's do-not-track proposal was widely dismissed by the media and found to be potentially anti-consumer (to the extent it increased the amount of ads consumers would view on the internet), I would not assume that Mr. Chester speaks for American consumers.

    (1) Pew Internet & American Life Project (12/16/07)
    (2) NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll (12/14 – 12/17/07)

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  3. Mr. Kelley is incorrect; my group did not support or introduce the do-not-track list. That was from CDT (Center for Democracy and Technology). I run CDD (Center for Digital Democracy). Polls show that the majority of users oppose the use of their personal information without their consent. (once users understand what's going on). As for the future of democracy, I stand with what I said in November. Creating a system where individuals have their data collected and then are motivated to engage in a behavioral agenda on behalf of others does threaten democracy.

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