multichannel connect
careers
all access

Marketing

Privacy-Protection Bills Mounting Up Against Online-Behavior Ads

5/16/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Cable operators, child- and teen-targeted
websites and others are facing new prohibitions
on targeting their ads to online surfers.

Two new bills pushed by Democrats have been introduced
that could
take a bite out of the
burgeoning online
behavioral-ad industry,
including
one that would effectively
prevent
targeting of ads to
kids and even teens.

Meanwhile, Republicans
were
seeking support for
a privacy bill introduced
last month
that would not implement
do-nottrack
mandates, would define protected information
narrowly and would not put the Federal Trade Commission
in charge of enforcing voluntary guidelines.

Both the Commerce Department and the FTC are
pushing a type of do-not-track self-regulatory regime,
with a backstop of government enforcement.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) wants that regime to have
the backstop of explicit FTC regulatory authority, while
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants a do-not-track “junior”
version that would ban tracking and targeted marketing
of kids and teens. Earlier, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and
John McCain (R-Ariz.) proposed a bill to protect online and
offl ine privacy via a combined opt-out and opt-in regime
for the use of information on Web surfers.

Markey’s bill, which would prevent behavioral targeted
marketing to kids, could prove problematic for marketers
in what is a potentially multibillion-dollar arena.

Attorney Marc Roth of Manatt, Thelts & Phillips, who
specializes in privacy, fears a restriction on marketing to
kids could catch adults in a net that’s too broad. Depending
on how the do-not-track regime is set up, it could apply
to both websites and Internet providers, he cautioned.

“I think it will largely diminish a cable operator or advertiser’s
ability to reach a certain audience,” Roth said.
“While they can still target their advertising, as in a media
buy for a certain website, you won’t be able to get the additional,
more-specific information that is perhaps more
current in the marketplace now. I do think it diminishes
the ability for marketers to communicate directly with
consumers that are most relevant.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association
was still studying the bills at press time and
had no comment, though it applauded the Stearns
bill’s “effort to promote a level playing field with respect
to privacy regulation.”

The Markey and Rockefeller bills joined what is becoming
a battle on multiple fronts over the collection,
protection and sharing of online information.

Also last week:

• A hearing in the Senate Judiciary Privacy Subcommittee
on mobile data privacy;

• A House Privacy Caucus briefi ng (Markey and
Barton are co-chairs) on mobile data privacy;

• The Justice Department signaled that it was releasing
a package of legislative cyber-security proposals.

September