New York, NY – April 11, 2008 – In comments submitted today to the Federal Trade Commission, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) offered its support for the Commission’s goals of promoting self regulation of online advertising and improving consumer awareness of behavioral advertising practices. In addition, OPA emphasized that overbroad restrictions on behavioral advertising could jeopardize publishers’ ability to create and deliver high quality and free content on the Web. OPA recommended to the FTC a modified definition of behavioral advertising that focuses on the collection and use of personally-identifiable information, as opposed to data collected from website visitors on an anonymous basis.
The attached letter by OPA President Pam Horan contains the complete comments submitted by OPA. Nina Link, President and CEO of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), filed a separate letter with the FTC in support of the OPA comments.Key OPA points include:
“OPA strongly supports the Commission’s reliance on self-regulation. Self-regulation offers our Members the opportunity to enhance public trust in the Internet as an increasingly important source of news, information, and entertainment. At the same time, the flexibility of self-regulatory principles will enable OPA Members to adapt their practices quickly to new developments in a dynamic digital publishing environment in which technology and related advertising models can change rapidly.”
“Our Members share and respect their customers’ desire for both a meaningful understanding of how their online activities are monitored and meaningful choices regarding the collection of information about such activities. [We] believe the Commission can best achieve these goals by encouraging clear and conspicuous disclosures in website privacy policies…OPA and its Members firmly believe that the combination of increased transparency in online privacy policies and increased awareness about how to use standard browser settings to control and manage how website operators monitor a particular visitor’s online activities are the keys to empowering consumers and protecting their privacy online.”
“Online advertising is the lifeblood of digital publishing. Over 90 percent of the revenue generated by OPA Members is generated by advertising and the ability of OPA Members to continue to sell high-value, targeted advertising will be critical to their future ability to create and distribute high-quality news, information and entertainment content on the Web, free of charge. While OPA Members embrace a variety of business models, OPA believes that the Commission should be particularly mindful that the ability of online publishers to create and distribute valuable content depends on their ability to generate revenue through the sale of online advertising.”
“OPA…urges the Commission to modify its definition of behavioral advertising to narrow the scope of this proceeding to the collection and use of personally identifiable information. The use of anonymous behavioral information to target advertising benefits all parties involved in the process. Such use benefits advertisers by delivering an audience of consumers with an interest in their products and services; it benefits consumers by delivering ads for products and services in which they are genuinely interested; and it benefits publishers by letting them sell high-value ads that support their gathering and delivery of news and information, which, in turn, serves the public interest. And it does all of this without disclosing personally identifiable information either to the publishers or to the advertisers.”
“Behavioral information derived from the use of anonymous tracking technology is necessary to facilitate many services unrelated to advertising, to create desirable (and, in many cases, free) content, and to design and refine products and services that provide consumers with the best possible online experience. None of these beneficial uses of anonymous behavioral data raises privacy concerns.”
About the OPA
Founded in June 2001, the Online Publishers Association is an industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the interests of high-quality online publishers before the advertising community, the press, the government and the public. Members of OPA represent the standards in Internet publishing with respect to editorial quality and integrity, credibility and accountability. OPA member sites have a combined, unduplicated reach of 131.7 million visitors, or 73% percent of the total U.S. Internet audience (Source: comScore Media Metrix, July 2007 combined home/work/university data). For more information, go to www.online-publishers.org.