Helping local businesses connect to local customers is what we do at the Local Search Association. That is why we closely monitor the discussions in Washington, DC regarding web-based commerce and consumers privacy.
The policy issues that arise from people searching for products and services on the Internet are still relatively new. We know that personal information can be collected when consumers register to use commercial websites. Identifying data from electronic devices can also be gleaned when they are used to view websites.
As a result, federal policymakers and interested parties are considering whether the following questions should be answered in law or left to the marketplace:
- When is it appropriate for a business to use this information to reach out to their customers?
- When is it appropriate for manufacturers to use this data to market their products?
- How is the security of a person’s personal information best maintained?
- Should individual privacy policies be set by individual businesses, should all marketers adhere to a set of privacy standards established by the industry, or should the federal government create nationwide privacy standards?
- If a consumer wants to withhold personal information from marketers, what is the most efficient method of providing an opt-out mechanism? (This issue is sometimes referred to as “Do Not Track.”)
Seeking to address the issues surrounding these questions is the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA)
, a consortium of trade associations that include the Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)
DAA members recognize that the root of these questions comes from the practice of on-line behavioral advertising, defined by the DAA as the use of “… information collected across multiple web sites that you visit in order to predict your preferences and to show you ads that are most likely to be of interest to you.”
When used with careful regard to protect the privacy of individuals, on-line behavioral advertising can be a cost-effective method of linking ready-to-buy consumers with opportunities to purchase wanted products and services. In 2009, the DAA established self-regulatory principles
for on-line behavioral advertising, and in 2010 created its Advertising Option Icon
which may be displayed on the websites of those marketers who abide by them.
Then on February 23, 2012, the White House issued its plans for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
which the Administration cited is, “… part of a comprehensive blueprint to protect individual privacy rights and give users more control over how their information is handled.” At that time, the DAA was commended
by Administration officials for its self-regulatory work.
Now that the White House has issued its blueprints for consumer privacy on the Internet, interested parties are looking to see what Congress might do at the legislative level and what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may do at the regulatory level.
Even though the Administration’s proposal is relatively new, individual members of Congress have already proposed a variety of bills
on the issue of Internet privacy as identified by the ANA. In addition, a one-day workshop
held by the Federal Trade Commission on “Advertising Disclosures in Online and Mobile Media” is an example of interested parties having an opportunity to be part of the federal policymaking discussion.
As these issues continue to debated, the Local Search Association will continue to afford its members insight into the policymaking process and seek out opportunities to let its members’ viewpoints be known.