Advertising groups hit FCC on privacy proposal

Advertising groups hit FCC on privacy proposal
© Greg Nash

Advertising trade groups on Monday bashed proposed privacy rules for internet providers at the Federal Communications Commission.

In a letter to the agency, six advertising industry groups, including the Association of National Advertisers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said they had “deep concerns” about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s privacy proposal.

Under Wheeler’s proposal internet service providers like Comcast or Verizon would have to get permission from their users to target advertisements based on their web browsing or application-use history.

“This would be an unprecedented step,” said the groups, who warned that “this proposal would upend the established and thriving Internet economy, which relies on the support of data-driven advertising.”

The pushback from the industry comes after Wheeler released a revised version of his proposal that delineated between sensitive and nonsensitive data, a change that was requested by some in industry.

But the commission has defined many types of particularly valuable data as sensitive. In addition to web browsing and application-use data, it will cover geo-location data that is generated by smartphones.

The advertising groups said that web browsing and application-use data should not be considered sensitive data, and raise procedural concerns with how the proposal was produced.

Internet providers are increasingly looking towards targeted advertising as another revenue stream. Most notably, Verizon has acquired Aol for its advertising technology and is in the process of purchasing Yahoo.

Wheeler’s initial proposal also received resistance among the Silicon Valley powerhouses that the internet providers hope to face off against. Google, in a letter not long before the revised proposal was released, said the FCC should follow the less-strict standard used by the Federal Trade Commission in policing privacy.

Commissioners expect to vote on the proposal in late October. It can be edited while they are considering it.