The Federal Trade Commission has proposed guidelines for online behavioral advertising that would allow advertisers to regulate themselves in terms of tracking Internet users and their habits. The proposal, "Behavioral Advertising: Moving the Discussion Forward to Possible Self-Regulatory Principles," points out that behavioral advertising gives consumers free content and personalized ads, but many consumers are unaware that their information is collected.
The FTC recognized a need for competition in online advertising and a desire to accommodate many business models that exist in this area.
The guidelines urge Web sites collecting information for behavioral advertising to explain clearly and plainly that the information is collected for targeted advertising and to allow consumers to choose whether their information is gathered.
Companies should also gain consumer consent before changing privacy policies and using information for purposes other than those stated in the original policy, the FTC said.
The guidelines state that companies collecting the information should secure it and limit retention.
The FTC wants input on the proposed guidelines. Specifically, the FTC wants to define "sensitive data" and whether its use should be prohibited. The commission's staff also is seeking information about possible secondary uses of information that is initially collected for behavioral advertising -- and whether the secondary uses call for more protection.
"The purpose of this proposal is to encourage more meaningful and enforceable self-regulation to address the privacy concerns raised with respect to behavioral advertising," the FTC announced in a call for comments.
The FTC said the guidelines developed from longstanding consumer privacy programs as well as conferences that focused on online privacy.