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FTC Watching Privacy Violations by Advertisers

FTC Says Enough
 
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a much-anticipated report to guide online advertising practices that will protect the privacy of consumers. The goal behind the new FTC principles is to allow for online data collection about consumers" online activities while still protecting the public"s privacy. 
 
The FTC conducted a "Behavioral Advertising- Town Hall Meeting to receive public input regarding privacy issues raised when advertisers track an individual"s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to his or her interests. As a result of the meeting, the FTC issued a code of conduct entitled, "Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising.-
 
It was determined that there are some positives to behavioral advertising for consumers, such as the free online content that is supported by advertising, or the personalization aspect that some enjoy. On the other hand, sensitive information regarding one"s health, finances, or children may be exposed to the wrong people or be used for underhanded reasons. The FTC"s main goal is to ensure privacy for any data that can be tracked back to any particular person or computer, while still allowing advertisers to remain competitive by collecting target information.
 
FTC Deems Some Online Data Collection to be Harmless
 
The FTC finds some behavioral advertising to be generally safe. For example, when a website collects consumer information to deliver targeted ads at its site, but does not share any of that information with third parties, it is not breeching any code. Secondly, when very little information is collected when an ad is shown based on the search query a consumer has made, there is little cause for concern in the FTC"s opinion.
 
Four Expectations
 
According to the revised principles, the FTC expects websites to provide clear and prominent notice to consumers about their privacy policies. Secondly, companies are expected to provide reasonable security for any data they collect. Third, some opt-out choices should be given to consumers regarding data collected. And finally, companies are urged to obtain consent before collecting any data related to income, children, health issues, or Social Security numbers.
 
The FTC works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC"s website provides free information for the public at www.ftc.gov.

By Chris Navarro
Get Advertising Jobs, Contributing Editor

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