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Old 03-05-12, 05:00 PM   #1
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Post Evidon Heads to the White House. What We Learned and What You Need to Know

Today was quite a day. 65 degrees and sunny in February. Say what you will about DC, but for me it's pretty cool to be invited to the White House. Equally cool is to see so many of the people who drive the consumer privacy discussion here in the US in the same room, honestly joining together to move forward.

Serious Press Coverage


By the time the event had wrapped up and we headed over to a reception at the Commerce Department Library, it was clear that the confusing messages in the press overnight had been sorted out. All of us at the event are on the same page for where we want to go. Now comes the hard part of getting there.

Here's what happened today: The Administration announced a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. It's a robust plan, and worth reading the whole report. What matters for Evidon clients, partners and friends is that the Administration, Department of Commerce and FTC commended the work of the DAA's Self-Regulatory Program. They also have asked, and the DAA has agreed, to work collaboratively with the browser makers and with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to reconcile browser-based tools like Mozilla's Do Not Track functionality with the Ad Choices Icon program. This collaborative work will start soon. Evidon has been a significant player in these conversations all along. I spent time with the leaders of all these constituencies today and we are thoroughly committed to the continued success of this effort.

Here's what didn't happen today: This is easily lost in all the breathless press coverage and highly edited press releases that the day started with (including our own!): What companies need to do to comply with the US Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising has not changed based on anything that happened today (more from the DAA here in English and here in legalese). I know this is on people's minds, as my phone and email were blowing up before I'd had my morning coffee. Also, very important to remember that the DAA has not endorsed the Administration's Privacy Bill of Rights. So, if you are participating in the DAA program, you are not signed up for any type of open-ended obligation to comply with this framework put forth by the Administration.

Let me explain a bit more. Worry #1 we heard was: browser-based do not track solutions means we're going back to opt-in as the default for data collection; Worry #2 was: the Ad Choices Icon has been judged to be insufficient and won't satisfy the FTC, Congress or the Administration, so we're going to a browser-based solution. All our hard work was for naught. This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Packed Room for Secretary of Commerce Bryson


The default settings for Do Not Track functionality in Firefox and IE are opt-out. No indication of that changing. As for the Ad Choices Icon program, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz (statement here) and Secretary of Commerce John Bryson (statement here) made it crystal clear that the Ad Choices Icon program is a success that should be built upon. FTC Chairman Leibowitz said the following:

For the past several years, the online advertising industry has been working to develop an icon that consumers could click to opt out of receiving targeted ads. Today, although it is still a work in progress, the ad industry has obtained buy-in from companies that deliver 90 percent of online behavioral advertisements; and, with the Better Business Bureau, it has established a mechanism with teeth to address non-compliance, backed up with FTC enforcement. Said differently, if they don't enforce it, we willâ?¦ Up until now, the advertising industry and the browser vendors have operated on parallel but separate tracks. But today, with the advertising industry announcing that it will honor consumer choices about tracking made through web browser settings, the two initiatives are beginning to come together. As a result, consumers will be able to opt out of tracking through either the icon on advertisements they see or through their browser settings, and America will move further down the road to protecting consumer privacy.

Also, take the time to read the details of the Administration's Fact Sheet summary of this new plan. They are clear that self-regulation, with a FTC-approved safe harbor program, is the way to go:

  • 'This framework takes advantage of the flexibility of self-regulatory processes but assures that new codes of conduct are guided by a comprehensive, forward-looking set of privacy principles and that all interested parties such as consumer advocates have a voice in the process.'
  • 'In addition to proposing these clear and actionable rights, the Administration'sprivacy report outlinesa way for companies to be confident that they are respecting these rights through an FTC-approved enforcement safe harbor. This approach will protect consumers while providing the certainty and flexibility necessary for continuing innovation.'
So, there you have it. I hope this cuts through the noise and dueling press releases. Our mission here at Evidon remains to: 'empower consumers and businesses to see, understand and control data online.' This means providing neutral technology solutions to difficult policy and business problems. We are very proud of the role we've played in getting the industry to this point. It has come with a lot of hard work and great support from our clients, partners and friends. This is the beginning of the next phase in the US. It's going to be exciting and we'll continue to be in the lead.




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