FTC to Host Town Hall to Examine Privacy Issues and Online Behavioral Advertising

In response to recent concerns about Internet and search companies developing the means to track and profile users based on psychological and behavioral traits, the FTC has announced plans to host a town hall meeting to “address the consumer protection issues raised by the practice of tracking consumers’ activities online to target advertising – or ‘behavioral advertising.'”

Topics of discussion include:

  • How does online behavioral advertising work? What types of companies play a role in this market?
  • What types of data are collected? Is the data personally identifiable or anonymous? Even when the data is anonymous, is it, or could it be, combined with personally identifiable data from other sources?
  • How is the data used, and by whom? Is it shared or sold? Is the data used for any purposes other than to target advertising?
  • How has the online advertising market, and specifically behavioral advertising, changed since 2000?
  • What security protections are companies providing for the consumer data that they collect, use, transfer, or store?
  • What do consumers understand about the collection of their information online for use in advertising?
  • Are companies disclosing their online data-collection practices to consumers? Are these disclosures an appropriate and effective way to inform the public about these practices? Are companies offering consumers choices about how data is collected and used?
  • What standards do, or should, govern practices related to online behavioral advertising? Are companies following the Network Advertising Initiative Principles, originally issued in 2000 for online network advertising companies? Are these principles still relevant, in light of changes in the marketplace? What other legal or self-regulatory standards are applicable to these practices? Are certain practices generally regarded as appropriate or inappropriate in this area?
  • What changes are anticipated in the online behavioral advertising market over the next five years? Will information be collected through technological means other than cookies? Is behavioral advertising moving beyond the Internet into other technologies?

The meeting will be held November 1-2, 2007 at the FTC Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC. It is free and open to the public.

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