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FTC Issues Behavioral Advertising Guidelines

As most of the privacy professionals are painfully aware, the Federal Trade Commission is congressionally empowered to protect consumers from deceptive trade practices.  Last week, the FTC provided guidance for online advertising.  Most regulatory agencies issue guidelines as a precursor for regulations.  The consensus is that the self regulation within the online advertising community is not working.

“This is the industry’s last chance to get self-regulation right,” said Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology. “The FTC report makes clear that the industry’s own efforts in this area have fallen short and must do more.”

The FTC held a “Behavioral Advertising” Town Hall in November 2007.  According to the FTC, Behavioral Advertising “is the practice of tracking an individual’s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to his or her interests.”  There are obvious privacy concerns with this sort of practice, as in order to create an individualized advertisement experience, a profile must be created.  That profile obviously incorporates some sort of marker, whether its a user name, cookie, serial number, or some other factor.

Will regulation foster better practices, similar to the Deceptive Trade Protections offered by the FTC, or will it simply mire the industry in more compliance quagmire?

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