Consumer Groups Ask FTC to Block Targeted Advertising

By April 28, 2008

Two consumer advocacy groups asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide enforceable regulations against behavioral advertising online to protect personal data on the internet.   The Consumer Federation of America (CF

A) and the Consumers Union (CU) contend advertisers’ use of tracking Internet users’ activities online, from search engine inquiries to Web sites visited, in order to precisely advertise to users.   The two groups say the FTC is not doing enough to protect the personal data collected by these methods. "The industry refuses to recognize the need to protect consumer privacy and the FTC has done nothing about the problem," said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America   The FTC has proposed self-regulation policies that would allow advertisers to enforce their own regulations on personal data as they see fit. The CFA and CU say that such regulations are not enough.   "Self-policing schemes are not enough to protect consumers' privacy and offer no enforcement against improper behavior," said Chris Murray, senior counsel for Consumers Union.   The two groups propose a “Do Not Track” list similar to the “Do Not Call” list against telemarketers, whereby consumers can opt out of being tracked online by advertisers.   The American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers countered that no harm has come through the use of behavioral advertising, and until that happens there are no grounds to implement such laws.   They also argued that advertising subsidizes much of the free information on the internet.   Behavioral advertising is a quickly growing online industry, with the biggest move coming earlier this year via Google’s acquisition of Doubleclick, giving the company enormous power to specifically advertise to its search engine users.   As targeted advertising grows, so will concerns regarding personal data security, meaning the FTC will face similar arguments in the future.   By Danny Scuderi   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas