I was originally encouraged by news accounts describing the new bill announced yesterday to clarify consumer privacy requirements for behavioral targeting. But on reading the bill, it seems to miss the mark on at least one key point.
Unlike the Boucher bill, the Rush bill would not ensure that consumers can see the profile information collected about them. Instead, so long as targeting companies participate in a “Choice Program” safe harbor, they are absolved of the requirement to show consumers anything about their online profile.
Under the bill, the specific requirements for a “Choice Program” would be determined by the FTC, although the only specific requirements noted in the bill is a joint opt-out facility and some kind of periodic compliance review, which isn’t anything more than status quo for the NAI membership.
It makes sense that participants in a safe-harbor program would be relieved of an opt-in requirement and the threat of private lawsuits. But it’s not at all clear why Choice Program participants should have lesser disclosure obligations to consumers. In fact, transparency in the information being collected about consumers is the sunshine that will establish norms and boundaries for profiling, which is critical to the success of self-regulation.
Bottom line: If an advertiser can see my profile, why shouldn’t I be able to see it, too?