AAF Government Report

April 26, 2013

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs

Christian Alfaro, Administrative Assistant

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Hearing Looks at Self-Regulation

On April 24, Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee conducted a hearing on the status of voluntary “do-not-track” standards for online behavioral advertising.

Digital Advertising Alliance Managing Director Lou Mastria testified that the industry’s self-regulatory program was up and working, providing consumers with meaningful choices about receiving targeted advertising, and accomplishing much of what Senator Rockefeller has called for in legislation. Mastria emphasized that the industry has done everything it assured the White House and Federal Trade Commission it would do. Nevertheless, the Senator accused the industry of “dragging its feet” and was upfront in his belief that he does not trust any industry self-regulation.

The Senator praised Microsoft and Mozilla who announced plans to install a default do-not-track feature in their browsers. Mastria explained that this undermined the industry agreement because it constituted browser choice, not consumer choice, and that it was something of an empty promise given the lack of agreement on a specific definition of “do-not-track.”

Other Senators were more balanced in their approach to the issue. Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., said that before moving forward with any legislation, the committee should identify a specific harm that is being addressed. The closest proponents could come to a “harm” is that tracking is “creepy” to some consumers.

Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., warned that legislation could do more harm than good. “This is pretty hard,” she said, “We want to make sure we’re doing it in a balanced way that protects consumers, but doesn’t end up with one or two or three Internet companies without the little guys.”

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