ISPs testify before Congress regarding online, targeted advertising

Fri, 09/26/2008 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Many of the biggest ISPs in the land were in D.C. yesterday to vow before Congress that they will be on their best behavior when it comes to online, targeted advertising. In exchange, they begged Congress not to legislate appropriate online behavior.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation were Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T.

Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, proposed the entire industry get together and agree to best practices that will protect consumers.

Clearly, since one of the largest ISPs in the country was only now just proposing such an effort, no such effort currently exists.

Tauke suggested the industry clearly explain disclosure to consumers, allow for consumer opt-in for targeted or customized advertising, and allow consumer opt-out, as well, at any time.

AT&T Chief Privacy Officer Dorothy Attwood agreed, and detailed a few additional policy points AT&T will voluntarily adopt, including a promise that customers will be notified before AT&T begins any online behavioral advertising activity using their information. Attwood said, “AT&T customers will have their identity protected no matter what choice they make about participating in any online behavioral advertising program we may offer.”

Tauke said: "From the perspective of consumers, it makes no difference what technology is used to do behavioral advertising, or if it is done by companies providing their browser, their search engine, their access, or any other online service. All online players should protect the privacy of online users."

Tauke argued that consumer protections already exist – another reason for no new legislation. “Should a company fail to comply with these principles, we believe the Federal Trade Commission has authority over abuses in the privacy area and can take appropriate measures against companies that intentionally violate applicable consumer protection laws,” according to his prepared remarks.

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