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FTC Revises Guidelines For Online Ads

Commission wants tighter controls on storage of personal data.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued revised guidelines for behavioral advertising, but the rules aren't likely to be the last word on the issue.

The FTC released new rules Thursday to guide the collection, storage, and sharing of information on Internet users. The guidelines expand the rules to include ISPs and mobile service providers. They tell companies to inform users when their data is collected and to provide consumers with the opportunity to refuse data collection by opting out.

The FTC has urged companies to separate notifications and opt-out opportunities from overall privacy policies and make them easy for users to spot. It has advised companies to gain consent before accessing particularly sensitive information about health, children, and Social Security numbers. It also urged companies to protect consumers' data with adequate security measures. Finally, it has asked companies to inform consumers of any changes to data collection practices.

Google, which sent representatives to testify about the issue, supports self-regulation and the new behavioral advertising guidelines. The company expressed agreement with FTC commissioners who said private industry should increase protection of user privacy.

"Google will continue to engage in efforts to develop strong self-regulatory principles and will continue to advocate for comprehensive federal privacy legislation," the company wrote on its public policy blog.

The World Privacy Forum said it wants the FTC to provide clearer definitions of sensitive information and stronger regulations, rather than relying on private companies to come to a consensus and regulate themselves.

It's possible that the FTC could revise the guidelines again, and several members of Congress who have stressed the importance of consumer privacy are likely to introduce legislation that will allow the federal government to regulate behavioral advertising and consumer data collection.