Posted February 12, 2009 4:42 pm by with 5 comments

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The FTC has had enough. They have issued their “final warning” to the ad industry regarding behavioral targeting. They are demanding that the ad industry implement stronger privacy protections or they’ll do it for them. They created a sample of what they expect to see in the privacy protection guidelines in their 48-page PDF, Staff Report on Behavioral Advertising.

In the PDF they outline four revised principles which as of right now are non-binding. With help from I’ll do my best to explain these principles to you:

Transparency and Consumer Control

The FTC wants you to fully disclose how your site is using behavioral targeting and make it easy for visitors to opt out.

Reasonable Security, and Limited Data Retention, for Consumer Data

The FTC only wants you to hold on to data as long as it has a “legitimate business or law enforcement need.” As David Kaplan of points out, it is unclear how long a site “reasonably” needs to hold onto data. Who gets to determine that? Will it be different for each industry?

Affirmative Express Consent for Material Changes to Existing Privacy Promises

This basically means that you have to keep your promises (even if you cross your fingers) no matter what happens to your company or changes in your privacy policy. If you do want to change something, users must consent to it first.

Affirmative Express Consent to (or Prohibition Against) Using Sensitive Data for Behavioral Advertising

You have to get users’ permission to collect data before (not after) users consent.

What do you think about these demands from the FTC? Are they out of line? How do you see guidelines like these actually being implemented?

  • Reading about our government and the general public’s misunderstanding of what behavioral targeting is almost gives me the same sensation as drinking a Slurpee too fast. Why can’t people grasp that your deepest darkest secrets and movements are not being cataloged and talked about in smokey back rooms. All networks want to do is deliver ads to people for things that they actually would be interested in. GAAAASP!!!! The horror! I suppose people would rather continue to get non specific ads for things of no interest or relation to yourself or the content you are viewing. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite: “IDIOTS! … Gosh!”

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Mark Gormley Is The Answer

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  • Not really good news for marketers, but sometimes a bit of governing is needed, as some individuals can really take things too far. The minute people start complaining about certain actions then one can start expecting regulations to pop up, trying to govern these actions.

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