FTC Favours Web Ad Self-Regulation

16 February 2009

WASHINGTON, DC: The Federal Trade Commission, the US government agency, said that the delivery of targeted internet advertising should be self-regulated by the online industry, but that consumers needed to be provided with clear, easy-to-access information about data collection.

Among the FTC's recommendations were that sensitive personal information – such as data relating to money and health – could only be used for targeting ads with the active agreement of web users.
Consumers should also be able to opt out easily of targeted ad programmes, and their data should be retained only for as long as is legitimately required for business or legal purposes.

This information, which could extend from bank details through to search or social network information, should also not be traceable to individuals or devices.

In a report last year, research firm eMarketer estimated targeted adspend will reach $4.4 billion (€3.4bn; £3.0bn) by 2012 in the US.

However, FTC commissioner Jon Leibowitz warned: "If the industry doesn't do a better job at explaining what they are doing with consumers' information and giving them a choice, then it could easily move to a more regulatory approach."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff