FTC's Focus on Internet Advertising: A Recap of the "Town Hall" and What to Watch For

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On November 1st and 2nd, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a 2-day workshop “to address the consumer protection issues raised by the practice of tracking consumers’ activities online to target advertising – or ‘behavioral advertising.’”

For companies that collect, use or maintain a consumer’s activities online – whether by employing third-party network advertisers, providing contextual or behavioral advertising solely within their own or related websites, or even possibly displaying non-advertising information (such as news stories or business intelligence) — the Town Hall discussions and potential follow-on actions by the FTC and Congress are worth careful monitoring. There are

several areas where further investigations, and even enforcement actions, may be likely.

For the FTC, Internet advertising includes “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 June of 2000, when it held a public workshop and issued two reports on the practice of online profiling. (See Online Profiling: A Federal Trade

Commission Report to Congress found at: www.ftc.gov/os/2000/06/onlineprofilingreportjune2000.pdf.) Because the FTC believes that “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,” the consumer protection agency convened this two-day gathering.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Mintz Levin | Attorney Advertising

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