By Administrator User posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 @ 11:02 AM - (Internet)
The FTC recently released a staff report that could impact your online advertising. Click here for the FTC report on legal online adverstising guidelines. This report is "voluntary" meaning that it is not the law, but it is highly advised that your company abide by these voluntary guidelines as best as possible for the reasons that follow.
Why These Guidelines Are Important
Behavioral advertising is the process of tracking a user's online activities so that the user's specific interests can be identified. Once a user's interests are identified, the web site can direct specific advertising to that user.
The amount of data a company can collect on a user is staggering (for a full discussion, see The Behavioral Advertising Blog). As the power of companies to collect user data grows, so does the FTC's concern with protecting people's privacy on the Internet.
But what does this mean, practically, for your company? If a user sues you because they believe your behavioral advertising practices are deceptive and/or unfair trade practices, you should produce evidence that your company complied with the FTC's voluntary guidelines. If you can demonstrate compliance, you may be able to avoid liability. In other words, if you follow these guidelines to the best of your ability, you will potentially minimize your legal exposure.
The FTC's Four Behavioral Advertising Principles to Consider
The staff report identifies four behavioral advertising areas that a company should review and revise if necessary.
(1) Offering consumers notice and choice before you collect behavioral advertising data. Translation = Before collecting behavioral data, a web site must give consumers notice of what information is being collected and a choice of whether the consumer wants that information to be collected.
(2) Limiting the time you retain data and providing reasonable security for protection of the data. Translation = There is no specific amount of time or level of security. How long you can retain data and how secure that data must be depends on several factors including the sensitivity of the data and the type of business the company is engaged in.
(3) If you change your company's privacy practices, you must notify each user. Translation = If any portion of your behavioral advertising practices change, notify each user that you have collected data on and give them a choice on whether they will allow the change.
(4) Provide an "affirmative notice" before sensitive data on a user's online acitivity is collected. Translation = Provide a specific "opt-in" choice for users if "sensitive information" such as financial data, data about children, health information, sexual orientation, social security numbers, etc. are requested by your company.
Make User Privacy a Paramount Objective in Your Company
Excellent user privacy is not only a legal consideration, but great business as well. If users know that you take their privacy seriously, they will become repeat customers and your potential legal liability will be minimized. It is a policy that provides for happy customers and limited legal exposure. If you have additional questions on online user privacy, do not hesitate to contact The Digesti Law Firm LTP here.