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March 8, 2011

Richard Cacciato on Privacy Panel on the FTC's Proposed "Do Not Track" Legislation

Richard Cacciato was a panelist on the "Tracking Consumer Behavior: How New Federal Rules Will Change Ecommerce Forever" panel convened in response to the FTC's "Do Not Track" proposal for internet privacy, a proposal meant to inform policymakers as they develop solutions, policies and potential legislation.

NEW YORK, NY - The Federal Trade Commission's proposed "Do Not Track" mechanism would restrict how businesses collect consumer data and monitor consumer behavior online. Meant as a consumer protection solution, it's a potential game-changer for every company working in the digital marketplace.

During the public comment period, the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York convened a panel on "Tracking Consumer Behavior: How New Federal Rules Will Change Ecommerce Forever" which was attended by a diverse audience representing publishers (websites), advertisers, media buying and planning agencies as well as "every day" internet users.

The panel consisted of:

  • Len Gordon, Regional Director for the Northeast Region, Federal Trade Commission
  • Richard Cacciato, Partner, Blue Iceberg Interactive
  • Yaakov Kimelfeld, SVP, MediaVest,
  • Andrea Miller, CEO of Tango Media
  • Johnson Garrett, Co-founder of ClipSync.
  • Moderator: Jerry Spiegel, Chair of the Technology, eCommerce & Privacy Practice Group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.

The discussion began with the reading of the proposal by FTC Regional Director Len Gordon. Discussion topics ranged from the current incomprehensible and inconsistent privacy policies, abuses which have led to the call for legislation, and the repercussions of "Do Not Track" legislation for advertisers and marketers. Of particular interest was current opinion among the panelists on whether the industry would organize self-regulation (Yes) or if Congress would need to intervene. The panelists were of the opinion that industry would self-regulate and if new legislation is enacted, hoped that it will be done with a light touch and protect consumers without killing the burgeoning online advertising industry.

Panelists were most concerned about the negative effect "Do Not Track" will have on online advertising, and comparisons were made between policies in the US where the online advertising industry has been flourishing vs. more restrictive policies in Europe. As a result, in Europe the online advertising industry lacks measurement tools, CPMs are lower and advertisers have been slower to adopt online as an advertising medium.

The call for "Do Not Track" legislation arose from consumer confusion about what is and isn't being tracked, how the data is being used, and the lack of transparency to the consumer. Similar to the FTC's "Do Not Call" legislation allowing consumers to opt out of telemarketer calls, "Do Not Track" is focused on limiting the tracking of consumer behavior across multiple websites as opposed to behavior on one site. To implement this, some recent browser releases have already begun to incorporate the ability to select "Do Not Track" as a preference.

About the "Do Not Track" Proposal:
The Federal Trade Commission issued a preliminary staff report on December 1, 2010 titled "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers" that proposes a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with innovation that relies on consumer information to develop beneficial new products and services. The proposal suggests an implementation of a "Do Not Track" mechanism - likely a persistent setting on consumers' browsers - so consumers can choose whether to allow the collection of data regarding their online searching and browsing activities. Public comments on the report will be accepted until January 31, 2011.

About the FTC:
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's chief privacy policy and enforcement agency for 40 years, works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

About the CBSACNY:
The Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York (CBSACNY) was founded by alumni for alumni in 1975. Since then it has grown its membership and expanded its mission. By sponsoring over 50 events each year on topics as wide-ranging as Finance & Banking, Healthcare, Real Estate, Media and Entertainment, Marketing, Leadership and Professional Development, Entrepreneurship, International Topics, Business Policy Issues, wine tastings and gallery tours, the CBSACNY acts as a unique educational, business, and social resource for all Columbia Business School graduates, students and faculty in New York and the surrounding tri-state region, as well as MBA friends and supporters from other select schools.

About Blue Iceberg:
Blue Iceberg is a New York-based interactive agency providing interactive strategy, web design and development, and digital marketing services. With rigorous strategic analysis and client-side experience informing our insights, design and technology solutions, we harness the power of the internet to help brands and businesses thrive online. By seamlessly integrating video, content and design, we create visually engaging and intuitive interactive experiences that are customer-centric, integrate into our clients' workflow and build their businesses.