Town Hall on Privacy Issues and
Online Behavioral Advertising
The Federal Trade Commission will host a two-day Town Hall to bring together
consumer advocates, industry representatives, technology experts, and academics
to address the consumer protection issues raised by the practice of tracking
consumers’ activities online to target advertising – or “behavioral
The Town Hall is a follow-on to a dialogue on behavioral advertising that emerged
at a November 2006 FTC forum, “Tech-Ade,” which examined the key
technological and business developments that will shape consumers’ core
experiences in the coming decade. It 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.
Online behavioral advertising involves the collection of information about a
consumer’s activities online – including the searches the consumer
has conducted, the Web pages visited, and the content the consumer has viewed.
The information is then used to target advertising to the consumer that is intended
to reflect the consumer’s interests, and thus increase the effectiveness
of the advertising. The FTC examined similar issues in 2000, when it held a
public workshop and issued two reports on the practice of online profiling.
Technology advances and the evolution of business models since that time have
raised concerns by consumer advocates, privacy experts, and others about the
implications of data collection in online advertising now and in the future.
Recently, several consumer privacy advocates, as well as the State of New York,
sent letters to the FTC urging it to examine the effects of behavioral advertising
on consumer privacy.
Topics at the Town Hall will 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
The Commission invites interested parties to submit requests to be panelists
and to recommend other topics for discussion. The requests should be submitted
electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
by September 14, 2007. The Commission asks interested parties to include a statement
detailing their expertise on the issues to be addressed at the Town Hall and
complete contact information. The Commission will select panelists based on
expertise and the need to represent a range of views about the issues. Panelists
selected to participate will be notified by October 5, 2007.
Any person also may submit written comments on the topics to be addressed at
the Town Hall. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com
or by mail to Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-135 (Annex N), 600
Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Comments must be received by
October 19, 2007.
A government-issued photo ID is required for entry to the event. Members of
the public and press who wish to participate but who cannot attend can view
a live Webcast of the Town Hall on the FTC’s Web site. Pre-registration
is not required. For further information, please consult the FTC
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