Lawmakers don't need to choose between consumer privacy and the ad-supported internet

Lawmakers don’t need to choose between consumer privacy and the ad-supported internet

The promise of a free and open web still holds true, even amid growing concerns about consumer data privacy, writes the American Advertising Federation’s Clark Rector for our Data & Privacy Deep Dive.

Online privacy, interest-based advertising and marketers’ use of data are back in the spotlight. Again, have these intertwined questions already left the news cycle?

In July, for the first time, the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a federal data privacy bill – the US Data Protection and Privacy Act – a measure that, if passed in Congress, would severely limit marketers’ ability to use data responsibly. way.

Shortly thereafter, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), without waiting for direction from Congress, initiated a rule-making process that could significantly limit the use of data in advertising. One clue to the agency’s mindset is its repeated use of the term “commercial surveillance.”

These lawmakers and regulators seem to approach this issue from the perspective that advertisers’ use of data is inherently bad. In the opinion of advertising industry stakeholders, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, responsible data use fuels the open internet and delivers many benefits to consumers, brands and the economy. On the one hand, data-driven advertising supports a competitive online market and contributes to strong economic and employment growth. It allows small, local and niche businesses to grow and find potential customers across the country – and often even around the world.

Essentially, responsible data-driven advertising helps fund the internet as we know it and gives consumers access to free content and information. The loss of ad revenue means much of that free content could go to a subscription-based model, which the FTC has acknowledged many consumers probably couldn’t afford.

Consumers recognize and endorse the value proposition that comes with sharing their data. A survey by the Digital Advertising Alliance found that more than eight in 10 US consumers prefer today’s ad-supported internet where most content and services are free to paid internet without ads. 85% said they would reduce their online and mobile business if they had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the content and services they currently get for free. In fact, on average, Americans value more than $1,400 per year on free digital content, ad-supported mobile apps and services.

In another survey, consumers cited harm and misuse of personal data as their top concerns. Threats such as financial loss, misuse of personal data for unauthorized purposes, accidental damage from a data breach or leak, and data used for medical care and credit eligibility loomed large. important in their minds. The use of personal data for advertising purposes was low on the list of consumer fears.

Clearly, consumers understand and are comfortable with the responsible use of their data.

Yet it is clear that a strong privacy standard is needed. Additional safeguards are needed to protect young children as well as certain categories of sensitive data, such as medical and financial information.

It is also important that the United States adopt a single national privacy standard. While it’s understandable that state lawmakers want to protect their constituents, a patchwork of up to 50 inconsistent or conflicting state laws would benefit no one and put an unnecessary stranglehold on one of the fastest growing and fastest growing segments. beneficial to the US economy.

The desired outcome is for lawmakers and regulators to adopt privacy and data standards that will not only protect consumers, but also allow the ad-supported Internet to continue to thrive.

Clark Rector is the executive vice president of government affairs at the American Advertising Federation. To learn more about the changing world of data-driven advertising and marketing, check out our latest in-depth analysis.

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