Summit Snapshot: Policymaker Perspective -- A Conversation with the FTC’s Maneesha Mithal

June 16, 2016

Big Idea: The Digital Advertising Alliance’s continued open dialogue with the Federal Trade Commission informs industry self-regulation.

[PHOTO: During DAA Summit 2016, DAA General Counsel Stu Ingis discusses the state of self-regulation and current Federal Trade Commission priorities with Maneesha Mithal of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.]

“Not everyone realizes that one of the key partners of the DAA is the FTC,” said Stuart Ingis, partner, Venable LLP and general counsel, Digital Advertising Alliance, as he moderated a highly interactive policy discussion at the DAA Summit 2016 in Silicon Beach, Los Angeles. “We appreciate all that the Commission has done — and we’d like to hear about the agenda and continued partnership with the DAA.”

FTC Agenda at-a-Glance

According to speaker Maneesha Mithal, associate director, division of privacy and identity protection, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, the FTC’s attention over the coming months will be focused on three main topic areas: sensitive information, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT). “We feel that is where we at the FTC should be focusing a lot of our resources… and we have recent examples of actions in each of those areas.”

Self-Regulation with Teeth

Mithal went on to give a bit of a scorecard on DAA’s ongoing efforts to champion consumer choice. “The DAA is doing terrific work,” Mithal said. “I’d like to particularly point to some of the enforcement actions that were announced this week. I think they are a great example of what we like to call self-regulation with teeth…I commend the DAA and Genie Barton [of the Better Business Bureau’s Advertising Self-Regulatory Council] and her program for holding companies’ feet to the fire.”  [[Note:  DAA’s other Accountability Partner, DMA [Direct Marketing Association], issued its annual compliance report immediately after the Summit, incorporating interest-based advertising among other marketing self-regulation enforcement areas.]]

Knowledge of Consumer Preference Is Power

“As you look at takeaways from this year’s Privacy Con, what are you interested in for Privacy Con 2017?” asked Brad Weltman, vice president, public policy, Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“We are voracious consumers of information,” Mithal said. “We want to know what the consumer survey data is showing — what is actually happening in the marketplace — to make us better policymakers…One area where I think we’d like more information is the particular privacy issues that consumers care about...So we’re asking for information in those areas where we felt there were gaps in Privacy Con 2016.”

Following up on this topic, I had the opportunity to point out that the DAA recently released a study to fill one of these informational gaps by finding out just how much consumers value the ad funded internet. Results were impressive. I asked how these kinds of studies might play into some of the FTC’s future work. 

“I think we’ve been operating under the premise that consumers value the free content that they get on the internet that’s funded by advertising,” Mithal said. “We definitely want to see more data about [specific] tradeoffs that consumers are willing to make. Because, of course when you ask consumers if they care about privacy, there tends to be a bias toward consumers’ saying ‘yes’…But if we drill down and ask – ‘would you be willing to pay 25 cents for this?’ or ‘would you want to pay money for that?’…I think that kind of data would be incredibly useful.”

As innovation continues to advance, DAA recognizes that effective privacy controls and a self-regulatory program is more essential than ever. From the internet to mobile to cross-device, the DAA Principles ensure that consumer choice is respected across all digital channels – always with the FTC vigilantly watching what we do. Given the FTC’s own priorities in digital media, our dialogue with the agency enables a powerful combination of both marketing innovation and consumer respect, reflecting directly the theme for this year’s Summit, “Connecting Self-Regulation, Relevant Ads & Respect for the Consumer.”

 

 

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