Privacy concerns by consumers and policymakers could make it tougher for marketers to collect the information they need to effectively target campaigns.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a report on Monday setting forth best-practices for businesses to protect the privacy of American consumers. The FTC called on businesses to self-regulate, but also to recommended Congress consider enacting general privacy legislation, data security and breach notification legislation, and data broker legislation.
"If companies adopt our final recommendations for best practices -- and many of them already have -- they will be able to innovate and deliver creative new services that consumers can enjoy without sacrificing their privacy," Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC, said in a statement.
The FTC makes three recommendations:
- Companies should build in consumer privacy protections at every stage of developing products, including security, limited collection and retention of data, and reasonable procedures to promote accuracy.
- Companies should give consumers simplified choices for opting out, including a Do-Not-Track mechanism.
- And companies should disclose details about collection and use of consumer information and provide consumers with access to the data collected about them.
Last month, the advertising and technology industries agreed to support Do-Not-Track, which has been a priority for the Obama administration.
The federal action comes as the heat gets higher on Google over privacy. Gizmodo's Mat Honan wrote "The Case Against Google" last week. The article cited evidence that privacy fears about Google have become widespread, not just reflective of a small group of privacy zealots who don't reflect the mainstream. Gizmodo's story on how to delete your Google search history was read nearly 200,000 times, and it was a reprint of a piece initially put out by the EFF, with many other outlets publishing the same information. "The Reddit page linking to the original had more than 1,000 comments. And the topic itself was debated on decidedly non-techie forums like NPR," Gizmodo writes.
"It's not surprising that the tracking debate had people up in arms," Gizmodo writes. "A Pew Internet study, conducted just before Google combined its privacy policies (and after it rolled out personalized search results in Search Plus Your World), found that three quarters of people don't want their search results tracked, and two thirds don't even want them personalized based on prior history."
Gizmodo cites months of evidence that Google can't be trusted: Recently, Google has been slanting its search results to bias social content from its own Google+ over other data, including Facebook and Twitter. And it committed more egregious violations of privacy and trust, including subverting mobile Safari's privacy protections, promoting its own products in search over obviously more relevant results, giving prominence to ads over results, falsely claiming it couldn't index and track Twitter, illegally accepting ads for Canadian pharmacies, and committing overt fraud in Kenya.
ReadWriteweb's Jon Mitchell replies with "The Case for Google," which doesn't refute the Gizmodo piece so much as reframe it. The piece calls on Google to step up, clean up, and demonstrate that it's worthy of being trusted with the data it wants consumers to hand over.
Marketers are going to have to heed the same call. We're going to have to explain to consumers how we're using the data we collect, how it benefits the consumers, and why we can be trusted with that data.
How Google Is Marketing Privacy Changes
How Progressive Markets the Trading of Privacy for a Discount
— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, The CMO Site