The leading trade associations in the online advertising industry have just released their new self-regulatory principles--the first comprehensive self-regulatory principles industry has produced, which track closely with the suggested guidelines released by the FTC in February.
I commend the industry for setting a new standard in transparency, consumer control and data security. These Principles do much to empower Americans to make their own decisions about privacy, but I fear that many critics of so-called "targeted advertising" will never be satisfied, no matter how high industry raises the bar.
These critics have insisted that ordinary users can't be trusted to make the "right decisions" about privacy and have insisted on imposing restrictive default "opt-in" rules for the online data collection that makes online advertising valuable to websites that rely on ad revenue. Such pre-emptive privacy regulation would stunt the growth of revenue for the "Free" online content and services we've all come to take for granted. During a time of economic recession, and as traditional media like newspapers struggle to make the transition from print to the Internet, it's more important than ever that policymakers allow self-regulation to evolve. Only by doing so can we expect continued innovation and creativity online. We must all remember: There is no free lunch!
I'll lead a panel discussion on July 10 on Capitol Hill about "Regulating Online Advertising: What Will it Mean for Consumers, Culture & Journalism?" Please RSVP here.