Groups Urge FTC to Investigate Data Collection ‘Wild West’ Involving Real-time Advertising Auctions and Data Exchanges
The Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. PIRG, and the World Privacy Forum challenged the commission to investigate the growing privacy threats to consumers from the practices conducted by the real-time data-targeting auction and exchange online marketplace. Increasingly and largely unknown to the public, technologies enabling the real-time profiling, targeting, and auctioning of consumers is becoming commonplace. Adding to the privacy threat, explains the new complaint, is the incorporation and expanding role of an array of outside data sources for sale online that provide detailed information on a consumer.
“This massive and stealth data collection apparatus threatens user privacy,” the 32-page filing explains. “It also robs individual users of the ability to reap the financial benefits of their own data—while publishers, ad exchangers and information brokers … cash in on this information.” Among the companies cited in the complaint are Google, Yahoo, PubMatic, TARGUSinfo, MediaMath, eXelate, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, and Rocket Fuel. The complaint also cites the failure of privacy policies and self-regulation to meaningfully safeguard consumers. […]
Recent developments in online profiling and behavioral targeting—including the instantaneous sale and trading of individual users—have all contributed to what CDD’s filing termed a veritable “Wild West” of data collection. Participating companies are employing “practices that fail either to protect consumer privacy or to provide for reasonable understanding of the data collection process, including significant variations in how cookies are stored and the outside data sources used.” […]
Accordingly, CDD, U.S. PIRG and WPF called on the FTC to take the following actions:
- Compel companies involved in real-time online tracking and auction bidding to provide an opt-in for consumer participation in such systems.
- Require that these companies change their privacy policies and practices to acknowledge that their tracking and real-time auctioning of users involve personally identifiable information.
- Ensure that consumers receive fair financial compensation for the use of their data.
- Prepare a report for the public and Congress within six months that informs consumers and policymakers about the privacy risks and consumer protection issues involved with the real-time tracking, data profiling, and auctioning of consumer profiles.
- Address the implications of potential information “redlining” of consumers, with companies deciding not to provide editorial content based on an assessment of the marketing value of a particular online consumer’s behavioral data.