U.S. advertising groups create privacy bill coalition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four U.S. advertising trade groups have banded together to lobby Congress to ensure federal online privacy legislation is less strict than a law scheduled to go into effect in California in 2020.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Trade Commission building is seen in Washington on March 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The issue is of huge concern to advertisers, who rely on online data collection to help ad buyers spend their advertising budgets effectively.

Lawmakers in Congress are working on a bill but appear divided on how strong it should be and whether it should pre-empt California’s law. No consensus draft has been introduced.

Privacy for America, the group announced on Monday, said U.S. legislation should prohibit practices like using a person’s data to deny them a job or sharing data with third parties without ensuring there is no fraud intended.

They also called on lawmakers to create a Protection Bureau within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), whose job it would be to authorize penalties for companies who break rules covered by the proposed legislation.

Their measure would also require strong data security protections to guard against data breaches.

Justin Brookman, a privacy advocate with Consumer Reports and a veteran of the FTC, expressed support for efforts to strengthen the agency but was otherwise unimpressed with the proposal.

“They’re picking some already-on-the-ground fruit,” he said. “It looks like the existing self-regulatory rules that they’ve had in place for years that didn’t work that well.”

The new group’s steering committee is composed of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Network Advertising Initiative.

“We’ve been making the rounds on Capitol Hill and we’ve been met very favorably,” said Randall Rothenberg, CEO of IAB, acknowledging “honestly some tense conversations along the way.”, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter are all members of the IAB.

The proposed measure was aimed at pre-empting California’s more stringent law, said Stuart Ingis, an attorney working with the group.

The advertisers also hoped to avoid rules like those adopted by the European Union last year which require consumers to “click” to consent to a website’s data collection practices before using the site, said Ingis.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall