Aug 5th 2021
In the clearest signal yet, the FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued an opening address two weeks ago at the agencies annual PrivacyCon conference and stated that the agency will now be “scrutinizing behavioral advertising” with greater vigour.
They will now be paying particular attention on “data harvesting activities” by data behemoths in a not so subtle grenade lob to the likes of Facebook, Zoom and ad-tech in general. (Related TechCrunch Article – ‘behavioural advertising is out of control, warns UK watchdog’ Link to Article)
What is Behavioural Advertising?
Auspiciously, the advertising industry maintains that through monitoring your browser habits over time through cookies and algorithms that advertsers can serve up more targeted and relevant ads based on user interests.
Inauspiciously, because of the highly targeted nature of the ads and the massive scale of personal data collection involved, users often feel that they have no choice in the matter and their privacy is being violated. It also doesnt help that personal data including medical data is sold en masse by data brokers to advertisers in what seems like under the table card trading.
More words from the FTC Commissioner
The FTC commissioner expanded on her statements by saying that, the “underlying incentive structure [of behavioural advertisers] has caused so many of the harms and privacy risks we’re here to discuss today”.
A slightly reductive statement when one considers Facebook and Google made $46bn & $147 billion respectively last year on ads which have embedded behavioural targeting components as core components of their megalithic advertising platforms.
In a finger wagging monologue by another FTC official, Erie Meyer stated at the conference that “We’re going to make sure that data abusers face consequences for their wrongdoing,” (as reported by media post online).
In what can be seen as closer alignment to GDPR and the US’s Canadian cousins approach to privacy by design, the FTC is now embracing data minimization over opt-in and opt-out for how personal data is used. The commissioner also stated that businesses should only collect the amount of data necessary for a specific purpose, and then only use the information for that purpose.
So what does this all mean?
Safe to say, the privacy vise is turning it’s screws in the US so that maybe soon we wont be targeted with some stalker like ads because we were within six degrees of separation from a postcode/zip code or obscure site we unintentionally visited a month ago.
The FTC is the closest thing the US has to a federal data privacy enforcement agency and it would appear that it is taking up the mantle of GDPR like regulation. There is a practicality component here too, states are simply to small to take on legal cases against the likes of Facebook and Google in court with their limited resources. To put a scale on things, the FTC has requested a budget of $389m & 1250 FTE’s for 2022 from the government (OMB). Looking at the table extract below, you can see several sub-dept specilisations with a high concentration of human resources on ‘Marketing Practices’. We can surmise where the FTC is focusing it’s efforts and it’s ability to do so. A federal level approach is probably the only realistic chance of clipping the wayward wings of an advertising industry on a gold rush.
FTC Budget Request 2022
#privacy #dataprivacy #dataprivacyio #federaltradecommission #timeforglobalprivacyreform
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